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The New York state attorney general on Friday released footage of a man bursting into flames after being tased by cops inside an upstate police station in October, an encounter that led to his death.
The disturbing surveillance video shows members of the Catskill Police Department running away, leaving the man as he desperately tries to put out the flames engulfing his upper body and head.
Jason Jones, 29, died on Dec. 15 at a hospital in Syracuse after spending six weeks in a medically-induced coma.
The office of New York Attorney General Letitia James is investigating his death.
The footage made public by James shows Jones pacing around the lobby of the police station, some 30 miles south of Albany, for about 10 minutes after speaking with several officers on Oct. 30.
He becomes visibly agitated, taking off his short-sleeved sweatshirt and ripping his t-shirt off his large frame before taking off his shoes and socks, according to the video, which does not have sound.
A little more than 10 minutes later, Jones is seen dousing his bare torso and hair with flammable hand sanitizer from a large pump bottle that was on a table.
Within seconds, three officers advance towards him. One of them draws his Taser and fires it at Jones, who is out of the camera’s frame.
Jones then bursts into flames, and comes back into the camera’s frame as he rolls on the floor; his chest, back and head fully engulfed in fire.
The three officers scurried away — two into another room and a third around the corner of the lobby — and left Jones alone to extinguish the fire, by rolling on the ground and patting his head with his hands for about 10 seconds, the video shows.
As Jones is on the floor, badly burnt and screaming in anguish, the officer who deployed the stun gun came back in the room and appeared to try to get Jones’ hands behind his back as he lay on the floor. Jones was never handcuffed and a civilian whose face was blurred in the video came into the station to give him a hug.
It would be about another 15 minutes before a medic brought in gurney, and wheeled Jones away to get treatment, according to the video.
He died after spending 47 days on a ventilator because his lungs were so badly burned he couldn’t absorb oxygen, according to The Albany Times-Union.
The newspaper reported that Jones — a former top high school athlete in Catskill — had been at a nearby bar where police responded to a disturbance. He reportedly walked to the station and confronted cops there.
Police were initially treating Jones as an emotional disturbed person, before they advanced on him and Tased him, in an apparent attempt to arrest him, the article said.
“Jason was unarmed, in the police station, and not threatening anyone when the police hit him with 50,000 volts of electrical current and he ignited,” Kevin Luibrand, a lawyer for Jones’ family told the paper.
“Instead of helping Jason, the police ran out the room, shut the door and let him burn.”
A law enforcement expert who trains police on the use of force reportedly said officers are told to never use a Taser on a person who was exposed to flammable liquids. He told the paper the cops should have immediately tried to help Jones after he went up in flames.
“Once the threat has been stopped, you don’t just say, ‘I’m going to let that person burn,'” the unnamed source said.
James’ office was tasked under a 2015 executive order with investigating fatal encounters between cops and unarmed residents.
“The release of this footage is not an expression of any opinion as to the guilt or innocence of any party in a criminal matter or any opinion as to how or whether any individual may be charged with a crime,” James said in a statement.