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Max Azzarello posted ‘conspiracies’ online. He died after setting himself on fire outside Trump’s trial

Max Azzarello, 37, who died after setting himself on fire outside the Manhattan courthouse where Donald Trump is on trial, recently began posting anti-establishment conspiracy theories online, including a lengthy Substack article in which he criticized politicians and billionaires and even made references to him. To the Simpsons.

The manifesto-like document warned of an imminent “global fascist coup.”

On Friday, April 19 at 1:30 p.m. ET, he entered a park outside the New York City courthouse, where Donald Trump's historic criminal trial is taking place, and set himself on fire. The horrific incident continued for several minutes before police and court staff put out the flames.

The hospital pronounced him dead after he was admitted with severe burns, police told NBC News. Police did not say the time of death.

His friends described Azzarello as a “kind” and “very friendly” man. Some struggled to see how his final act had been committed by the one they knew so well, while others noted how his mother's death seemed to leave an indelible mark, leading him to support the conspiracy theories and going “lightly”.

Who is the victim ?

In a lengthy blog post, Azzarello describes himself as an “investigative researcher.”

Police said his driver's license indicated he was born in 1987 and was born in St. Augustine, Florida. A registered Democrat, he attended UNC from 2005 to 2009, according to public records and his LinkedIn page. He then earned a master's degree in urban and regional planning in 2012 from Rutgers University.

Those close to Azzarello described her personality as kind, creative and knowledgeable about the world, although she was interested in it.

Azzarello's high school friend, Stephen Waldman, described him to the New York Times as one of the smartest people he knows.

While at Rutgers, his former classmate Katie Brennan remembered him posting notes of encouragement in the hallways for his classmates and singing karaoke versions of Frank Sinatra and the Disney songs, the Times reported.

“He was very curious about social justice and how things could be done,” Ms. Brennan said. “He was creative and adventurous.”

In 2013, Azzarello was director of operations for Tom Suozzi's campaign, his LinkedIn profile reveals. The incumbent congressman at the time was running for Nassau County Executive.

Since then, he has held positions in marketing, sales and technology, some of which were based in Philadelphia, as shown in his profile.

Years later, Azzarello moved to St. Augustine, Florida, he notes on social media, where he worked as a freelance "research investigator," per his online post.

But this month, between April 13 and 19, he arrived in New York, apparently without his family's knowledge.

The April dates fall approximately two years after his mother's death. That's when everything changed for Azzarello, his friends say.

“That’s about when he became more outspoken,” Waldman told the Times. "They were close, they had a good relationship. He was sad."

Some told The Daily Beast that he's been "a bit of a mess" lately, pointing to his troubling social media posts.

In June 2023, he allegedly referred to Ms Brennan and others in what she described as a “statement” he had written. Troubled by his writings, she immediately contacted him and eventually informed a family member.

In August, he posted on Facebook about a visit to a psychiatric facility: “Three days in the psych ward, and all I got were my new favorite socks,” the Times wrote.

In the following days, he showed a series of unstable episodes.

He dined at the Casa Monica Hotel in St. Augustine, where he apparently found a years-old signature left on the wall by former President Bill Clinton; Police said Azzarello threw a wine glass at him.

Although he admitted to police what had happened, and they seemed to dismiss it as a one-off incident, a few days later he returned to the hotel – wearing only underwear – and stood outside, shouting into a megaphone, the outlet wrote.

A few days later, he vandalized the exterior of a United Way office, then got into a stranger's truck, the Times reported.

Despite his multiple arrests in Florida, Azzarello had no criminal record in New York, police said.

The property's former owner, Larry Altman, told The Daily Beast that Azrillo was a "very personable man" but that in recent years he had "become more and more engaged in the thought process that everything is a conspiracy against the average person.”

Altman also told the Times that Azzarello had "political views that I don't consider mainstream." He called our government and the world government a Ponzi scheme.”

Incidents involving police in recent years and the trend toward conspiracy theories set the stage for Friday's action in New York.

He was apparently seen in Manhattan Criminal Court on Thursday and Friday.

Those who knew him before did not view the action outside the courtroom as consistent with the Max Azzarello they once knew.

Carol Waldman, the mother of Azzarello's friend Steven, described Azzarello as "a kind, gentle soul." She told The Times that he was "a wonderful, wonderful young man who had his whole life ahead of him."

His beliefs

Azzarello had a long history of spreading conspiracy theories and attacking the rich and powerful, according to NYPD officials, who began combing his social media profiles.

His lengthy article on Substack resonated with a range of people, companies, and social media organizations. He also described the Covid-19 pandemic as an “apocalyptic economic tool”.

Azzarello said in the document that the self-immolation was an “extreme act of protest.”

“To my friends, family, witnesses, and first responders, I sincerely apologize for inflicting this pain on you. " he wrote.

Elsewhere in the lengthy post, Azzarello also referenced the late pedophile Jeffrey Epstein, cryptocurrency and episodes of The Simpsons.

At one point, he compared himself to Lisa Simpson.

“The messages [that Mr. Azzarello posted seconds before the incident] appear to be based almost as much on propaganda as a conspiracy theory type message,” NYPD Chief of Detectives Joseph Kenney told reporters. during a press conference.

"Some information regarding Ponzi schemes and the fact that some of our local educational institutions are a front for the mob. So there is a little conspiracy theory here."

The incident

Police said Azzarello did not violate any safety protocols before the incident because the park – Collect Pond Park – was open to the public at the time.

A few seconds before setting himself on fire, he threw a pile of colorful leaflets into the air.

The man who witnessed the horrific incident, which occurred just minutes after the final jury was selected in the former president's criminal case, and who identified himself as Dave, was visibly shaken.

"There were papers all over the floor, and that caught our attention pretty well, and I kind of wondered, 'Well, what are these papers?'" Dave told The Independent.

He added that people around him were “terrified” and started screaming. The accident happened so quickly that no one could stop it.

“It’s terrible to see this.”

Azzarello was transported by an emergency medical technician (EMT) to the burn unit at NewYork-Presbyterian Cornell Medical Center.

The New York Police Department said he was in critical condition and hospital staff later pronounced him dead.

Six first responders, including at least three NYPD officers and a court employee, suffered minor injuries while responding to the incident, according to firefighters.


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