US Veteran Sets Self on Fire Outside VA Clinic

Charles Richard Ingram III died that day
By Neal Colgrass,  Newser Staff
Posted Mar 28, 2016 6:45 PM CDT
US Veteran Sets Self on Fire Outside VA Clinic
The seal affixed to the front of the Department of Veterans Affairs building in Washington.   (AP Photo/Charles Dharapak)

A veteran of the US Navy walked nine miles to a Veterans Affairs clinic in New Jersey earlier this month, poured gasoline on himself, and set himself ablaze. Charles Richard Ingram III, 51, died later on March 19 at a burn center in Philadelphia. "Gasoline burns extremely hot, so how he survived the short time that he did was in my opinion a little unbelievable," says a local fire chief. Self-immolation is often linked to protest, the Daily Beast notes, but attempts to learn more about Ingram's psychological state haven't led to much. Known as "Rich," he's a seven-year veteran who served on the USS La Salle, and was chief on deck when it went to the newly liberated Kuwait on March 12, 1991. After his service, he married Billie Bessler and settled with her in Egg Harbor, NJ, but knocks at their door went unanswered.

The Northfield, NJ, clinic where Ingram killed himself is designed to help people in remote or rural areas who live far from population hubs. Because most specialists (psychiatrists included) are in cities, they assist people via teleconference—something Ingram likely did or was planning to do if he was getting psychiatric help, says Police Capt. Paul Newman. Ingram also leaves behind two kids, ages 3 and 5, who were photographed in a local newspaper the day before Ingram's death. A 2015 study says the suicide rate among recent veterans of the US military is roughly 50% more than the civilian rate (29.5 per 100,000 veterans), reports. Whistleblowers, lawmakers, and veterans have harshly criticized the Department of Veterans Affairs over the degree of care it provides veterans. (More veterans stories.)

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