A Florida man was hospitalized with serious burn injuries after attempting to light a wooden cross as a joke for Halloween Tuesday night.
The victim, identified as 50-year-old Ron Nielsen by Raw Story, was using gas to light a wooden cross as a joke when he set himself on fire at his Palm Bay home, according to his wife and friends.
Investigators said Nielsen was drunk and his wife used a water hose to douse the flames, WFTV reports.
“He was conscious and alert but he had second-degree burns over 40 to 50 percent of his body, including his chest, arms, upper torso,” Palm Bay Department spokesman Yvonne Martinez said.
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Nielsen was taken to Orlando Regional Medical Center. Police described the incident as a “prank” that included using candles and gasoline to light a wooden cross along the side of his home.
“It started as some kind of prank apparently and involved a wooden cross,” Martinez explained. “We don’t know if he was trying to light the cross or the candles but when he did, his clothes caught on fire.”
Cross burnings have long been debated. While authorities describe the incident as a prank, others, as noted by the Christian Post, don’t take it so lightly.
Religious leaders in San Luis Obispo, Calif. were angered by a burning 11-foot cross in March of 2011.
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“[They] are not pranks,” stated a letter in protest of the burning cross, signed by religious leaders. “They are hate crimes meant to frighten and intimidate… they cannot be tolerated or laughed off as “just a joke.”
Sources: WFTV, Raw Story, Christian Post