A 43-year-old Chicago woman set herself on fire in the lobby of US Rep. Danny Davis’ (D-IL) office.
Before igniting herself with a lighter, she drank a bottle of hand sanitizer and coated her body in the highly flammable substance.
The Davis’ office has said in a statement that the woman, whose name has not been released, entered the building located on Chicago’s West Side at around 3:00pm on Tuesday.
“Often times people sign a register or a book with their name and address but she never got to that point,” Davis also said. “We don’t know her and we don’t know exactly what she may have been coming for.”
First, she had “a brief discussion with staff” but then she suddenly grabbed the bottle of hand sanitizer.
A spokesman for Davis, Ira Cohen, told reporters that the woman had started drinking from the bottle, but then poured the liquid, which is flammable, over herself. She then pulled out a lighter and and set herself ablaze.
“We really don’t know why; we never got to that point,” Davis, who did not witness the incident, said as cited by The Chicago Tribune.
Staff immediately reached for a fire extinguisher, but the woman ran out of the door while she was still on fire.
The woman, who, according to the legislator’s office, appeared to be homeless, sustained severe burns and was taken to a Stroger Hospital in critical condition. Later, Chicago police said that doctors managed to stabilize her.
“We just got a call from the hospital indicating she is stabilized and undergoing treatment, and they say it’s going to take a while. A long time, perhaps, but hopefully she’s going to be OK,” Davis said.
The legislator has suggested that the woman might have some “mental health challenges” and used the incident to stress the necessity of mental health services in the area.
“This is a big issue for us because we have people like her who don’t necessarily set themselves on fire, but are obviously experiencing mental health challenges,” he said. “And we get them almost daily.”
Congressman Davis is a Democrat who was first elected in 1996 and has been re-elected by large majorities since.