Indian American who set himself on fire near White House struggled with mental health issues

A photo of Arnav Gupta posted on his website

Maryland resident Arnav Gupta, 33, was an artist.

A 33-year-old Indian American artist who died after setting himself on fire near the White House, on Wednesday, was struggling with mental health issues and was reportedly on drugs.

Even though Secret Service personnel rushed to the scene and extinguished the fire, Arnav Gupta succumbed to the injuries in the hospital.

He was filmed doused in flames near the Ellipse Park, very close to the White House.

According to TMZ, Gupta was high on a type of synthetic cannabis called K2, which is banned in the United States.

The website said Gupta was hallucinating and he did not respond to commands of the responding officers to roll over as they tried to extinguish the fire.

Gupta’s family had reported him missing on May 29, according to Montgomery County Police in Maryland. The police issued a press release earlier on Wednesday seeking information about his whereabouts.

There were also concerns about his safety even though details on why there were concerns about his well-being were yet not shared. According to the release, Gupta was last seen by his family at 9.20 am on Wednesday. He left the home and three hours later he had already lit himself up near the White House.

The sight of Gupta, lit up in flames, was a horrid image that stunned bystanders. A graphic video uploaded online showed him downed in flames struggling for his life.

On the evening of May 30, the Montgomery County Police issued another press release informing that Gupta had died of his injuries.

Gupta, who grew up Maryland, attended the Landon School, a private college preparatory school for boys in Bethesda, Maryland. He later attended the Boston University.

According to, Gupta was an artist who uploaded his works on his website Arnamania. The “About Us” section on the website says he was born in New Delhi and raised in the DC area. The website adds: “Arnav now lives in the Bay Area. 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.”

The day he died the Bethesda, MD, resident had posted on the website a “beginner’s guide to oil painting art on canvas.” His last post read:

“Every artist had to start somewhere. Whether it is your first time drawing or you have drawn using another medium, this guide help will you on oil painting art. The richness of color in oil paintings makes it fun for artists as you can experiment with more colors. Also, oil paints take longer time to dry; thus a longer time to work on your painting. Now, it is time to start creating your first oil painting masterpiece.”

The Twitter handle @arnamania, which seemingly belonged to Gupta, has only one cryptic tweet saying: “Feel the Burn,” posted on May 29.

One Comment

  1. Several typos in this article. Tense of voice could use some feedback.

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