Published On: Wed, Sep 18th, 2019

Iowa man David Smith dies after setting himself on fire in Des Moines Central Library

Police in Des Moines, Iowa identified David Smith as the man who walked into the busy atrium of the Iowa public library, then doused himself in a flammable liquid before setting himself on fire.

Smith, 36, died late yesterday from the burns he sustained in the Des Moines Central Library hallway.

A witness named Mallory Young spoke with the Des Moines Register.

“I will never un-see what I saw,” Young said. “There were people in tears in my office, it was that disturbing.”

Young, 35, watched the tragedy unfold from an office building across the street from the library, describing how the police officers “spraying down” the man’s severely burned and discolored body before he was put in an ambulance.

Smith lived a “transient” lifestyle,” according to Des Moines police spokesman Sgt. Paul Parizek said, who confirmed his last known address was in Anchorage, Alaska.

Library staffers and other people nearby helped put out the blaze, which shut down the location before it reopened early Wednesday.

“Talk about some heroic moves,” Parizek said of those Good Samaritans.

“Thank you to staff and others for their quick actions, and to everyone visiting the library who assisted us in evacuating the building quickly and safely,” library officials tweeted late Tuesday. “No one else was injured and the library sustained no damage.”
“It’s pretty traumatizing to the public,” Tim Paluch, a Des Moines Public Library spokesman said. “We’re trying to figure out why this happened.”

“We want to reassure people that the library is a safe, welcoming public space,” Paluch added.


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About the Author

- Catherine "Kaye" Wonderhouse, a proud descendant of the Wunderhaus family is the Colorado Correspondent who will add more coverage, interviews and reports from this midwest area.

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