Ontario's police watchdog agency is investigating after a man is reported to have “taken a lighter and blown himself up” in front of a federal office building, according to bystanders. The man is believed to have set himself on fire using a jerry can and a lighter, and witnesses say he burned for "a good amount of time."

At around 1:30 p.m. on Friday afternoon, London police responded to a 911 call about a 48-year-old man that was threatening to harm himself near Exeter Road and Meg Drive, which is just in front of the London district office of Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada.

According to Mitch McGuffin, who witnessed the incident while he was driving with a colleague, there were more than 10 police officers present at the scene and a member of the public was holding a jerry can. 

McGuffin explained that he thought some officers had guns drawn and also were using what he believed to be “bullet-proof shields” in the standoff. During the confrontation between him and the police, the man used his lighter to set himself on fire. “The guy just took a lighter and just blew himself up,” McGuffin said.

McGuffin described the whole scenario as “like what you see in the movies.” 

Despite the police and firefighters working to put out the flames within seconds, McGuffin said, “He was on fire for a good amount of time, considering how quick the cops were.” Although police acted fast and doused the man with a fire hose and extinguishers immediately, the flames on the man were reported to have reached approximately 12 feet.

Ontario’s Special Investigation Unit (SIU) will now be looking into the incident, as they investigate all civilian injuries and deaths that happen while police are present. According to the SIU, London police officers attempted to talk with the man while he was threatening to harm himself. The officers fired plastic projectiles at the 48-year-old, who then set himself alight.

In a tweet on Friday afternoon, London Police tweeted "Man injured during apprehension under Mental Health Act Special Investigations Unit investigating."

While people often set themselves alight as a mark of activism or to serve a political purpose, it is assumed from the London police tweet that the man may have have been struggling with his mental health. No other reason has been suggested for his actions.

Once the flames were extinguished, first responders assisted the man and helped him to his feet. The SIU confirmed that the man was transported to the hospital with serious injuries.

London police were unable to comment on the incident, as police do not comment on investigations that the SIU are considering.

Disclaimer: Cover photo used for illustrative purposes only. 

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