ATLANTA — A security guard is recovering in the hospital after being severely burned while trying to save someone’s life.
Ramona Lea told WSB her brother-in-law, Michael Harris, was working security at a building near the Israeli Consulate Building on Spring Street when he saw a protester dumping gasoline on herself.
Police said when Harris rushed to stop the protester, she set herself on fire. Lea said the fire engulfed Harris as well, leaving him with second and third-degree burns.
“My husband is an Army Vet, and his instincts kicked in to try to save the woman’s life,” the family wrote on an online fundraiser.
Authorities have not provided the condition or the identity of the protester.
“This was likely an extreme act of political protest,” Atlanta police Chief Darin Schierbaum said. “The individual that was injured was an individual that was carrying out a protest.”
Schierbaum said that the protester was wrapped in a Palestinian flag when the fire started.
Schierbaum said police are aware of the tensions in the Jewish and Muslim communities but believe this was an isolated incident.
“We have dedicated patrols that are occurring at this location and other locations across the city,” Schierbaum said. “We continue to ensure that everyone is protected in Atlanta, Georgia, regardless of your religion, your heritage, or your nationality.”
Anat Sultan-Dadon, Consul General of Israel to the Southeastern United States, issued a statement Friday night, writing:
“We are saddened to learn of the self-immolation at the entrance to the office building. It is tragic to see the hate and incitement toward Israel expressed in such a horrific way. The sanctity of life is our highest value. Our prayers are with the security officer who was injured while trying to prevent this tragic act. We are grateful to the city of Atlanta’s law enforcement and first responders for all they do to ensure safety.”
Atlanta police, Atlanta Fire Rescue, and FBI and ATF agents are all investigating.
WSB-TV’s Mary Alice Royse Ginther contributed to this report.