‘Everyone went flying:’ Gas-soaked man tackled after lighting cigarette, Calif. cops say

A man walked into a Northern California hospital Tuesday night and threatened to light himself on fire — then doused himself in gasoline and lit a cigarette, according to police.

But the man ultimately put out the cigarette and officers quickly tackled him, the Petaluma Police Department said in a news release on Wednesday.

Police said the incident began at Petaluma Valley Hospital around 6 p.m. when officers responded to a report that a man had “entered the waiting room in the emergency department with a container of gasoline and threatened to light himself on fire.”

The man had left the waiting room by the time officers arrived, but he was found sitting nearby at a picnic table — still with gasoline and a lighter near him, according to police.

Officers said they spoke to the man while keeping their distance, but then he grew “agitated and poured the gasoline on himself.”

The man said he was going to “light himself on fire as he was tired of dealing with his mental illness,” according to police.

That’s when the man lit a cigarette and started smoking, police said.

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Roughly 10 minutes later, as police spoke with the man, they managed to convince him to put the cigarette out, police said.

At that point, officers took the man into custody so he couldn’t immolate himself.

“Everyone went flying, they launched at him so quick, they all went over the bench, the officers and him,” Lt. Tim Lyons said Wednesday, according to the Santa Rosa Press Democrat. “Nobody got hurt.”

The Press Democrat reported that during the incident “one officer had a fire extinguisher, another a non-lethal bean bag gun, and Petaluma firefighters waited nearby, out of sight.”

The suicidal man was a 57-year-old from Fort Bragg, according to the newspaper.

The man was treated at the Sonoma County Crisis Stabilization Unit.

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Jared Gilmour is a McClatchy national reporter based in San Francisco. He covers everything from health and science to politics and crime. He studied journalism at Northwestern University and grew up in North Dakota.