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Man sets himself on fire at Civic Center Towers

Fatal incident largely flew under the radar

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civic center tower

FATALITY — A man recently set himself ablaze in the lobby of Civic Towers.

A man lit himself on fire in the lobby of Civic Center Towers about a month ago in what police later determined to be a suicide.

According to Kokomo Police Department and Kokomo Fire Department records, in the early morning hours of Aug. 31 emergency responders were dispatched to Civic Center Towers, 210 E. Taylor St., in reference to a fire alarm. When they arrived they found a man sitting in the complex’s lobby with his clothes engulfed in flames.

A KFD report indicated firefighters arrived on the scene shortly after 5 a.m. Upon arrival, firefighters attempted to gain entry into the building utilizing a key fob; however, the door wouldn’t open. Firefighters saw William Conway sitting on the lobby’s bench with his clothes engulfed in flames. According to the report, he wasn’t attempting to “roll or get up.” Firefighters eventually made the decision to break the glass door and extinguish the fire using water cans.

Police officers also arrived on the scene, and Conway was reportedly conscious as first responders began to take him to a waiting ambulance. According to the police report, a responding officer spoke with Conway as he was being transferred to the ambulance. The officer asked him if he had attempted to harm himself or if someone had set him on fire. “William advised me, ‘no,’” read the report. “William advised me that he was working on a muffler of a Civic and that he got hot. He went inside and it just continued to get hot. I asked William if he had gas on himself and if he smoked. William denied smoking and advised me that he had gas on him.”

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Conway later was transported to Eskenazi Hospital for treatment of second- and third-degree burns on “a large percentage of his body.” He died on Sept. 5.

Police later obtained surveillance footage of the Civic Center lobby. They determined Conway had lit himself on fire in the main lobby area of the complex while lying on a bench.

Prior to that, he had been lying on the bench “for several hours.” According to a police report, “It appeared Mr. Conway had used a lighter and lit the top of his pants or the bottom of his shirt. It then appears from the video that Mr. Conway fanned the flames in order for the flames to burn faster. A short time later Mr. Conway’s body was fully engulfed in flames.”

Investigators also interviewed residents of the apartment complex. One indicated they had spoken with Conway the day prior, and he had been “talking about killing himself.”

Another officer indicated in the police report that Conway had been placed on trespass from Civic Center Towers on Aug. 27.