Aaron Bushnell: U.S Airman Who Died after Self Immolation Outside Israel Embassy Was an 'Aspiring Engineer' Who Had Links with Anarchist Groups

According to his LinkedIn profile, the active-duty airman was a DevOps engineer stationed in San Antonio, Texas.

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The US Air Force officer who self-immolated outside the Israeli embassy in DC in protest of the Gaza war was an "aspiring engineer" and was planning to "transition out of the military." Aaron Bushnell, 25, was admitted to the hospital in critical condition on Sunday after he covered himself in accelerant and ignited a lighter, resulting in his body being engulfed in flames.

DC Fire said he suffered "life-threatening injuries" but the officer was pronounced dead on Monday. A disturbing video of the incident showed the officer articulating the motives behind his "extreme act of protest" as he approached the building, shouting 'Free Palestine,' while his body ignited in flames.

Talented Man's Unfortunate Death

Man sets himself on fire
US Air Force officer Aaron Bushnell set himself on fire outside the Israel Embassy in DC and shouted "Free Palestine" X

The fire continued for over a minute before authorities and security personnel successfully extinguished it. However, Bushnell could not be saved and died less than 24 hours after the horrifying incident.

According to his LinkedIn profile, the active-duty airman was a DevOps engineer stationed in San Antonio, Texas. He touted himself having "very good communication skills" and expressed his capability to "thrive in team environments."

At the time of his death, Bushnell was pursuing his bachelor's degree in computer software engineering. He also held a CompTIA Security+ certification, signifying his foundational skills in performing essential security functions and his potential for a career in IT security.

He reportedly had links with at least two anarchist groups, namely the Burning River Anarchist Collective and Mutual Aid Street Solidarity, both headquartered in Ohio. Bushnell was seen following these groups on Facebook.

Bushnell was reportedly raised in a deeply religious Christian family. He was employed at Paraclete Press, a Christian book and music publisher located in Massachusetts, where his mother continues to work, as per the company's website.

Man sets himself on fire
Aaron Bushnell, US Air Force member, seen walking before setting himself on fire X

Bushnell's father owns a construction company.

In his youth, Bushnell was involved in the local indoor marching band called Spirit Winter Percussion.

Burnt Himself in Protest

Disturbing footage shows Bushnell approaching a heavily-guarded Israeli embassy on DC's International Drive just before 1 pm on Sunday. He was dressed in a combat uniform and speaking into a camera mounted on a selfie-stick.

Man sets himself on fire
Aaron Bushnell X

"My name is Aaron Bushnell," he told the camera, "I am an active duty member of the United States Air Force and I will no longer be complicit in genocide.

"I am about to engage in an extreme act of protest, but compared to what people have been experiencing in Palestine at the hands of their colonizers, it's not extreme at all.

"This is what our ruling class has decided will be normal."

For over 30 seconds, he walked silently, traversing past the adjacent Chinese embassy while carrying an open flask of liquid in his left hand.

Upon reaching the embassy, he positioned the camera on the ground, approached the gate, doused himself in the fluid, and then put his service cap on his head.

Disposing of the flask, Bushnell faced difficulties igniting his lighter, all while a voice challenged him.

Aaron Bushnell

The camera captured an unseen man asking, "Hi sir, can I help you?" as he approached the embassy gates.

Twelve seconds later, the voice can be heard once more, asking, "Can I help you, sir?" just before Bushnell struck a lighter, igniting the fluid.

The footage shows the flames rapidly spreading across his entire body, engulfing his head as he persists in shouting "Free Palestine," his voice filled with agony as the fire intensifies.

Despite the escalating flames, he remained standing for nearly a minute before collapsing to the ground.

Sirens were audible in the background, and a man in plain clothes aimed a pistol at him while others used fire extinguishers to quell the flames. DC Fire and EMS transported him to the hospital with "critical and life-threatening injuries" but Bushnell was pronounced dead on Monday.

Man sets himself on fire
First responders and firefighters seen trying to douse the fire after the man set himself ablze X

On Sunday morning, before heading to the embassy, Bushnell appeared to promote his act of protest on Facebook. He shared a link to his LillyAnarKitty Twitch account, where he live-streamed the demonstration.

"Many of us like to ask ourselves, 'What would I do if I was alive during slavery? Or the Jim Crow South? Or apartheid? What would I do if my country was committing genocide?'" Bushnell wrote. "The answer is, you're doing it. Right now."

The video was initially viewed by only a few dozen people on Twitch before the platform removed it. However, it has since been watched by over one million people on another platform.

Bushnell has reportedly been a member of the Air Force since May 2020, commencing with basic training. According to his profile, he achieved top honors in both flight and class upon graduation in November of the same year.

His training as a Client Systems Technician equipped him with hands-on experience in troubleshooting, building, and repairing computer information systems. He also received training in cybersecurity, obtaining his CompTIA Security+ certification.

He was stationed in Texas in December 2020, working in IT infrastructure monitoring and oversight. He received a promotion to DevOps engineer in March 2023.