A 58-year-old veteran set himself on fire outside the Georgia Capitol early Tuesday.

Disgruntled veteran ID’d who set himself on fire outside Georgia Capitol

Disgruntled with the Department of Veterans Affairs, a veteran set himself on fire in protest Tuesday morning outside the state Capitol in downtown Atlanta, according to the Georgia State Patrol.

The GBI identified the man as 58-year-old John Michael Watts. He has no current address, the agency said.


About 10:45 a.m., the Air Force veteran parked a Nissan Sentra on Washington Street, stepped out of the car and walked toward the Capitol, GSP Capt. Mark Perry told AJC.com.


“He was strapped with some homemade incendiary devices (and) firecrackers, and doused himself with some kind of flammable liquid” before lighting the fireworks, he said.

Several loud explosions were heard, and a trooper quickly put out the fire with an extinguisher, according to authorities.

Watts was rushed to Grady Memorial Hospital with burns over 85 to 90 percent of his body, Perry said.

No other injuries were reported.


The Capitol and judiciary buildings were evacuated. Workers were forced to move children from a day care associated with Central Presbyterian Church to a neighboring Catholic church as a precaution, according to officials.

A bomb tech empties a car of all its contents, hours after a disgruntled Air Force veteran set himself on fire Tuesday morning outside the Georgia Capitol. JOHN SPINK / JSPINK@AJC.COM

The area has been secured, Atlanta police said on Twitter.


All roads in the area were reopened by 6:15 p.m., according to the WSB 24-hour Traffic Center.

Multiple agencies were on the scene earlier. The GBI emptied the car and bomb techs examined the contents. 


— Staff writer Chris Joyner contributed to this article.

Capitol police keep civilians back as bomb techs search the car of a protesting veteran who set himself on fire. JOHN SPINK / JSPINK@AJC.COM

Support real journalism. Support local journalism. Subscribe to The Atlanta Journal-Constitution today. See offers.

Your subscription to the Atlanta Journal-Constitution funds in-depth reporting and investigations that keep you informed. Thank you for supporting real journalism.