PORTLAND – A Portland police officer was taking time off after a "traumatic incident" where a man on fire was accidentally pepper sprayed while officers and bystanders were trying to douse the flames, the chief said Thursday.
Investigators said 26-year-old Daniel Schaull doused himself with gasoline and set himself on fire at the intersection of SW 12th Ave. and Yamhill Wednesday morning, according to police. He was taken to the hospital and died Wednesday evening.
Chief Rosie Sizer said while trying to put out the flames the first officer on the scene accidentally grabbed a pepper gas canister from the patrol vehicle, rather than a fire extinguisher. Fire investigators said the pepper gas in no way fanned the flames and did nothing to worsen the situation, since it was water-based. Both canisters are red in color and similar in size.
Sizer said the man was also intentionally avoiding the extinguishers.
Witnesses told KGW that they'd heard someone screaming for help and a man engulfed in flames, running down the street. A Portland officer had just pulled up at the intersection when she noticed the flames and smoke and ran to help. Bystanders and another officer also helped put out the fire.
Firefighters arrived just after 11 a.m. to find Schaull significantly burned.
Portland's police and fire bureaus jointly investigated. Police Bureau Lt. Damon Simmons would not comment on the cause of death and said medical examiners would be conducting an autopsy.
Simmons added that police were continuing their investigation.
Sizer said the officer felt "terrible" about the incident and was taken a few days off.