Multiple witnesses say a man who police had in handcuffs lit himself on fire Thursday afternoon in crowded Civic Center Park.
One witness said the man had been covered in lighter fluid. How he managed to ignite himself was unclear.
Denver Police characterized it as an attempted suicide. They say the man was taken to the hospital and is in critical condition.
"He had both his hands behind his back, and the next thing you know, a fire started," Steben Barrios Jr., who was in the park at the time, said.
Barrios says the man took off running and was followed by police, firefighters and paramedics when he collapsed.
"The guy's running, completely on fire, with flames behind him," Barrios said.
The man ran for a short distance in the park, engulfed in flames.
“Then the cops started running and shouting for everybody to move and get out of the way so they can get to him,” said Rebecca Jacobson, who is in the park during her lunch break.
Charred clothing was seen behind crime tape in Civic Center Park as police conducted their investigation.
"You see people get arrested all the time, but they don't light themselves on fire when they get arrested," Barrios said.
Denver Police say a civilian employee of the department spotted the man dousing himself in lighter fluid and asked officers to respond.
Authorities were in the process of placing the man in protective custody when he came engulfed in flames. Witnesses and officers were able to extinguish the blaze.
DPD said they took the man into protective custody because they were worried about his safety.
They are still investigating how the fire started.
“That's one of the details we are working to pin down a hundred percent,” said DPD spokesman Doug Schepman.
Exactly what happened remains under investigation, DPD says. Because he was hurt after being placed into protective custody, there is now an investigation into what happened, which is standard protocol.
Colorado Crisis Services is available to help with any mental health or emotional crisis 24 hours a day, seven days a week, 365 days a year. You can call 1-844-493-TALK, text TALK to 38255 or visit one of 11 crisis centers across the state. Visit ColoradoCrisisServices.org to learn more.
Westminster Walk-In Crisis Services 2551 W 84th Avenue, Westminster, CO 80031
Lakewood Walk-In Crisis Services 12055 W. 2nd Place, Lakewood, CO 80228
Littleton Walk-In Crisis Services 6509 S. Santa Fe Drive, Littleton, CO 80120
Boulder Walk-in Crisis Services 3180 Airport Road, Boulder, CO 80301
Denver Walk-In Crisis Services 4353 E. Colfax Avenue, Denver, CO 80220
Aurora Walk-in Crisis Services 2206 Victor Street, Aurora, CO 80045