A 79-year-old Methodist minister who died after setting himself on fire on a busy street in this town of about 3,100 residents left behind a suicide letter asking the community to repent for its racism.
Charles Robert Moore, who had addresses in Allen and Sunnyvale, drove to Grand Saline on June 23, parked his vehicle in a Dollar General lot in the 500 block of East Garland Street, doused himself in gasoline and committed self-immolation, Police Chief Larry Compton said Tuesday.
“I have never seen anything like this in my entire career in law enforcement, which includes my years as an arson investigator for the Mesquite Fire Department,” the 66-year-old chief said.
Horrified witnesses ran to the man and tried to put out the fire. Another witness then arrived with a fire extinguisher.
“They got the fire put out, and the man was transported to Parkland Hospital in Dallas, where he later died of his injuries,” Compton said.
Moore put a typed suicide note on his car windshield before he set himself on fire, the chief said.
In the note, which Compton provided to the Tyler Morning Telegraph, Moore – who is white – stated he was born in Grand Saline and grew up around racial discrimination.
His letter claimed that the community shunned blacks and resorted to violence, including hangings, burnings and decapitations.
“I will soon be 80 years old, and my heart is broken over this,” Morris wrote. “America, and Grand Saline … have never really repented for the atrocities of slavery and its aftermath. What my hometown needs to do is open its heart and its doors to black people as a sign of the rejection of past sins.”
Moore wrote that visions of violence haunted him greatly.
“So at this late date, I have decided to join them by giving my body to be burned,” he wrote. “With love in my heart not only for them but also of the perpetrators of such horror … ”
Morris signed the letter, which was dated June 23.
Angi McPherson, 44, was working in the Sophistikutz hair salon when she saw the man walking around the parking lot.
“He had been walking around the parking lot for a while, but he didn’t seem like anything was wrong,” Ms. McPherson said. “After awhile we saw him grab something square (police report would show it was a 2-by-3-foot piece of foam) and knelt down. Then we saw him grab a gas can and begin pouring something all over him. We were like, ‘Is that gas?’”
Ms. McPherson said she will never forget the next few moments.
“He suddenly burst into flames, and he stood up and started screaming,” she said. “One of the guys ran and tried to put him out with his shirt, while my boyfriend ran to him with a fire extinguisher and finally put him out.”
Ms. McPherson called the incident troubling.
“I have never seen anything like that, and it was like watching some kind of a horror movie. Who sets them self on fire?” she said.
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SOURCE: Tyler Morning Telegraph