Man with gunshot wounds found on fire outside cemetery

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Sunday, March 13, 2005
Man with gunshot wounds found on fire outside cemetery
Police say the man was transferred to the burn unit at the University of Virginia Medical Center.By
David Harrison 981-3340The Roanoke Times e-mail this story
A man was found with gunshot wounds and on fire Saturday evening outside the Fairview Cemetery in Northwest Roanoke, police spokeswoman Aisha Johnson said. Police said passersby helped rescue the man.
The man, who remained unidentified Saturday night, was transported to the burn unit at the University of Virginia Medical Center, she said, adding that she did not know his condition. It was unclear whether his wounds were self-inflicted, Johnson said. She also said she didn’t know whether a weapon was found nearby.
Robert Thomas said he and his wife, Katie, were driving down Salem Turnpike when they noticed smoke and sparks coming from a bush near the cemetery gates.
“It was probably just the cedars melting,” Katie Thomas said.
They pulled over and Katie called 911 while Robert grabbed a blanket the couple kept in the car for their dog and ran to pat the burning man down.
“This shirt would have been the first thing off if I didn’t have the blanket,” Robert Thomas said, fingering his flannel shirt.
“I had to pull his jacket off of him because his jacket [was] still on fire,” he said. “Moaning and groaning was all he was doing.”
He said the man looked “not too good” and had burns around his face, arms and chest. “I’d say he’s probably my age, somewhere between 40 and 50 probably.”
Charles Chestnut, who was walking down Salem Turnpike shortly after the Thomases got there, said the man was moving when rescuers put him on a stretchers.
“He was gargling,” said Chestnut, of Southwest Roanoke, who was on his way to the bus stop after leaving his grandson’s first birthday party. “They say burning is one of the worst pains you can go through.”
A police officer gave Chestnut a ride home.
Police received the call at 7:51 p.m. Johnson said. About 45 minutes later, the Thomases’ red pickup truck was parked in front of the cemetery with their dog still inside. Their blanket as well as the man’s clothes were lying near the gates behind yellow police tape.
“It’s very rattling,” said Robert Thomas. “You don’t want to see anything like that.”

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