Desperate Act

Houston police were able to intervene.
Cory Garcia

Highlights from Hair Balls

Breaking News

A man in a suit doused himself with liquid from a gas can outside the Exxon building on the corner of Milam Street and Leeland Street at about 5 p.m. last Friday.

Houston police spokesman Kes Smith said the 25-year-old man approached a security guard at the Exxon building, on 800 Bell Street. and said he had a can of gasoline with him. The building security guard and an off-duty Houston police officer who was working as a security guard saw the man walk around the corner to Milam. Houston police responded to a call about a possible protestor at about 4:45 p.m., Smith said.

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The man sat on the sidewalk in front of the building with a small striped pillow and a large red gas can. Maria Gonzalez was standing on the corner when she saw him grab the can and dump the liquid on himself.

He pulled a lighter from the pocket of his dark suit and was believed to be trying to set himself on fire when the officer responding to the call and the off-duty officer lunged at him, grappling with the man to get the lighter from his hands.

"He was trying to use the lighter and the officers were trying so hard," Gonzalez said.

They succeeded in wrenching the first lighter from his hands when the man, a 25-year-old Texas resident with a history of mental illness, pulled out a second lighter and the struggle began again, Smith said.

Within minutes, the officers had the man flat on the ground, his hands handcuffed behind his back. There were about eight officers on the scene, three police cars and a fire truck. The officers let the man sit cross-legged, hands still cuffed behind him, while officers and security guards for the Exxon building shouted for people to stay back.

People gathered in clumps across the street and cars crept by slowly while drivers stared out their windows at the sight. The man sat on the sidewalk, head dropped down, without a flicker of emotion on his face. His blond hair and black suit were soaked with what Houston firemen on the scene said was most likely diesel, a much less combustible fluid than gasoline, Smith said.

Houston Police Lt. P. Manzo said the man never said a word as he poured the fluid on himself and then struggled with police as they stopped him from igniting himself.

Once the man was subdued, officers brought out lengths of yellow tarp to block him from view while he was stripped of his dark suit and cleaned with a water hose from a firetruck. Police then ducked the tarp-covered man into a car. He was taken to a hospital and hasn't been charged with anything, Manzo said.

Another passerby who saw the man earlier said he was seated on the ground facing the street with what appeared to be a small white board to the right of him and a gas can on his left. There was writing on the white board, but it was too small for him to be able to read it from the street, the passerby said.

Smith said there was a handwritten sign propped up on a tripod, according to the police report, but he doesn't know what was written on the sign. The man had no connection to Exxon, and has a history of mental illness according to family members, Smith said. His name will not be released because he has not been charged with a crime and is protected under mental-health laws, Smith said.

ExxonMobil spokesman Patrick McGinn said it was also unclear what the man was protesting, and confirmed the man had no ties to Exxon.

On Monday, Smith said he did not expect the man, who is still being treated at Ben Taub NeuroPsychiatric Center, will be charged with anything. "The focus is on getting him the help he needs," Smith said.


Dead Man Flying
A Nigerian man arrives at George Bush IAH after dying early on his flight.

Jeff Balke

Last week, a man identified as Benedict Sylvester Igwedike, 67, of Lagos, Nigeria, was found dead on a United Airlines flight from his hometown. Investigators are awaiting the results of an autopsy on the man, who apparently died relatively early in the flight.

Back in January, a woman died on a flight from Brazil to Dallas and the flight was rerouted to Houston as a result. Both are tragedies, to be sure, but what makes the press releases for these so strange is that the deaths are reported to have happened at "2800 Terminal Road," the address of George Bush IAH.

The fact that these deaths occurred (or at least were recorded in the death logs or whatever they call them) at a place called "Terminal Road" seems weird or creepy or unfortunate or all of the above. I know that it has to be official and all that, but couldn't they just say "at the airport" in the press release? Just a thought.


Michael Brown gets 30 days in the federal slammer for choking British Airways flight attendants.

Craig Malisow

Former hand surgeon/wife-beater Michael Brown has been sentenced to 30 days in a federal penitentiary for choking several female flight attendants aboard a British Airways flight in January. He'll get two years of supervised release afterwards, with mandatory mental health treatment and substance abuse evaluation.

U.S. District Court Judge Donald Graham handed down the sentence last week after rejecting a plea agreement between Brown and federal ­prosecutors.

Brown was ordered to report to Miami authorities on October 25. He was also fined $5,000 — which is way less than he allegedly spent on strippers in Houston every month.

According to the sentencing minutes, Brown "apologized to the Court and asked for Mercy and that he would like to sentenced to custody because of his children."

Oy freakin' vey.

We're not yet sure what effect — if any — this will have on the future of his companies, which have continued to hemorrhage funds under the control of "chief restructuring officer" David Grange. Doctors working for Brown Medical Center had their salaries cut by 50 percent this month, according to a memo from BMC Chief Operating Officer Robert Calamia.

But Brown oughta look on the bright side: Maybe now he'll have some much-needed quiet time to crank out more sex-advice letters to his daughter.

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