The New York attorney general’s office is investigating an incident in which a man died weeks after catching fire when police tased him while he was covered in hand sanitizer, new videos released on Friday by the attorney general’s office show.
In the first of two videos dated October 30, 2021 – which were released without audio – a man identified as 29-year-old Jason Jones is seen interacting with two police officers in the lobby of the Catskill Police Department in Greene County, New York.
Jones appears to be agitated in his interactions with the officers, and at one point is seen taking off his sweater and ripping his shirt off while pacing around the lobby and trying to open a door, the video shows. More than halfway through the first video, a third officer walks into the lobby and all four men are seen speaking together while a shirtless Jones continues to pace around the lobby.
In the second video, Jones is seen squirting what appears to be hand sanitizer on his head and shirtless body. Jones then goes off screen, at which point one of the officers is seen pointing a Taser at him and then deploys his weapon. Jones is engulfed in flames and then falls to the floor as all of the officers exit the lobby, leaving Jones alone in the room and on fire.
Nearly 14 seconds later, one of the officers returns to help Jones, just after Jones’ hair catches fire and burst in flames and his head is seen engulfed. A stretcher is brought in approximately 15 minutes later, according to the video, and Jones is then seen wheeled out of the lobby.
Jones spent 45 days at a Syracuse hospital ICU before dying from his injuries on December 15, 2021, his attorney Kevin Luibrand told CNN Friday night.
CNN has reached out to the Catskill Police Department and Greene County District Attorney Joseph Stanzione for comment.
Jones went to the station after an earlier incident, attorney says
Jones was drinking at a bar half a block from the police station before the incident, according to Luibrand. Things had gotten a bit rowdy while Jones was at the bar and police asked him to leave.
“Jason didn’t like the way the officers handled the situation at the bar so he went down to the police station to talk about it,” Luibrand explained.
“Jason was clearly having an emotional issue when he was at the police station lobby,” Luibrand said. “He was not harming anyone or threatening anyone.”
The police officers knew Jones because it was a small town, Luibrand said. Jones was a star athlete at his high school in the Catskills and a sectional champion for shot put and discus, he said.
“He was a highly regarded guy and comes from a working-class family,” Luibrand said, adding he was working at a local store where he helped sell and deliver tents for outdoor events at the time of the incident.
Most effective hand sanitizers used to prevent the spread of germs and viruses contain ethyl alcohol, a highly flammable liquid that “readily evaporates at room temperature into an ignitable vapor,” according to the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
Although the CDC says the likelihood of hand sanitizer catching on fire is low, the Taser employed by the Catskill police officer likely ignited the hand sanitizer solution that Jones was seen putting on his head and body and set his body on fire.
The Office of Special Investigation (OSI) is conducting the investigation, according to a statement from Attorney General Letitia James’ office. The OSI looks into every case where a police officer may have caused a person’s death. The attorney general’s office says it released the video to be transparent with the public.