Arnav Gupta, 33, has been identified as the man who set himself on fire on the White House Ellipse on May 29, 2019. The Secret Service and other law enforcement rushed to put out the flames, but Gupta suffered severe injuries and was pronounced dead at a hospital a few hours later.
The United States Park Police confirmed Gupta’s death via social media. The organization added that the investigation has been turned over to the Metropolitan Police Department.
Gupta’s family had reported him missing earlier in the day on May 29, according to Montgomery County Police in Maryland.
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Here’s what you need to know.
1. Arnav Gupta’s Family Was Concerned About His Emotional State When They Reported Him Missing to Police
Arnav Gupta’s family members said they last saw him at his home in Bethesda, Maryland. He left the house on Cindy Lane around 9:20 a.m. on Wednesday, May 29.
They later reported him missing to the Montgomery County Department of Police. The department issued a press release stating they were concerned for Gupta’s “physical and emotional welfare.” But the release did not go into further detail as to why Gupta’s family believed there was a risk for his safety.
The Montgomery County Police shared the bulletin on Twitter at 2:46 p.m., more than two hours after Gupta had set himself on fire near the White House. The post was updated on May 30 to say that Gupta had been located, but did not include that he had died.
2. Arnav Gupta Attended Boston University & Was an Alum of the Landon School in Bethesda
Arnav Gupta appears to have grown up in Bethesda, Maryland. An online search of records indicates that he graduated from the Landon School, a private college prep school for boys, in 2004.
His picture was also included in a Landon Magazine article from 2013 that highlighted what alumni were up to. Gupta was pictured at Everest Base Camp in Nepal. You can see that page here.
After high school, Gupta moved to Boston for college. He studied International Relations and Affairs at Boston University. He appears to have graduated in 2008.
3. Arnav Gupta Previously Worked as a Coach & an Education Consultant in Bethesda
Arnav Gupta worked as a personal trainer while he was a student at Boston University. An online search of records shows that according to his Linkedin profile, which has since been hidden or removed, Gupta was associated with Town Sports International. During high school, Gupta was an intern and translator with the Montgomery County Language Minority Health Project.
After graduating from college, Gupta returned to his hometown. He got a job as a coach at the Landon School, where he appears to have stayed for about two years.
From 2009 to 2014, Gupta appears to have worked in property management. His Linkedin information then shows that he became an executive assistant to the CEO at Alfredhouse Eldercare, an assisted living facility. Gupta’s last position is listed as an “Education Consultant” at Chance Academy.
4. Arnav Gupta Created Artwork & Wrote Political Poetry
Arnav Gupta appears to have expressed his political ideas in artwork and in writing. His website, called Arnamania, depicts a few pieces of artwork he says he created. He lists the prices as being fantastically high, from $7,000 to $10 million.
In the bio section, Gupta wrote that he was born in New Delhi, India, raised in the D.C. suburbs and that he was living in the Bay Area of California. It’s unclear if he was actually living on the west coast; the Montgomery County Police referenced him as a Bethesda resident. The bio continues, “After a fulfilling career in the intersection of Education, News-Media, Artificial Intelligence, and Global Politics, the artist now enjoys working on less weightier subjects such as nature-scapes, wildlife, and portraiture. He aspires to one day write fantasy literature in the mold of his favorites: C.S. Lewis, J.R. Tolkein, and Roald Dahl.”
Gupta was previously registered to vote in Maryland as a member of the Green Party, but his voter registration was not active at the time of his death, according to the state’s Board of Elections database.
The Twitter account associated with the website has one only tweet. It was posted at 10:10 a.m. on May 29, 2019, and reads, “FEEL THE BURN!!!”
Heavy also found a written work that Gupta appeared to have self-published on April 23, 2019. It’s titled “Memoirs of a Shadow President.” It’s clearly political, but we won’t speculate as to the meaning. In one passage, he appears to criticize President Obama and the Iran deal. “We must protect this house, Not quiver like some Obama mouse, Louis C.K. jerking off on a fallen Angel’s blouse, No Iran nuclear deal Defend the forward bastion of the Crusaders appeal, The Kapitalisten Schweine squeal, The art of the New Deal.”
5. Witnesses Recorded Arnav Gupta Engulfed in Flames as Law Enforcement Rushed to Help
The Secret Service shared that the man, now identified as Arnav Gupta, lit himself on fire around 12:20 p.m. on May 29. The incident happened roughly two hours before police in Maryland announced that he was missing and that they were concerned about his mental state.
Witnesses recorded Gupta engulfed in flames as he appeared to be running across the lawn. Officials with the Secret Service, the National Park Service, and the United States Park Police responded to douse the flames and care for Gupta.
In a news release, the Park Police simply stated that the individual was extinguished and taken to a local hospital for treatment, without going into details about his injuries.
Arnav Gupta set himself on fire within the Ellipse. Investigators are asking potential witnesses to come forward with any information about what they may have seen.
It’s likely that many people witnessed the situation, as the Ellipse is an open area located along a tourist trail. The Ellipse is south of the White House in President’s Park. It lies north of Constitution Avenue and the National Mall. It’s a popular area for tourists; the National Park Services website explains that the Ellipse is often used for community events. The Ellipse is also the area where the National Christmas Tree is erected during the holidays.