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Police Questioning Man’s Story of Being Set Afire By White Men

September 23, 1993

LOVELAND, Ohio (AP) _ Police are questioning the story of a man who said he was doused with gasoline and set on fire by two stranded motorists he tried to help.

They now think Milton Metcalfe, 30, may have accidentally set himself afire, then lied about what happened.

″That is one possibility,″ police Chief Howard Espelage said today. ″The investigation is still ongoing at this time. There’s nothing concrete.″

When asked what led police to think something might be suspicious, Espelage said, ″Now you’re asking me to give my case away. All I can say for now that that is a possibility.″

Marilyn Collier, a sister-in-law of Metcalfe, said she does not believe the suspicions. ″This man was out of his head when he was burning, so he couldn’t stop and rationalize and make all this up,″ she said.

Metcalfe, who is black, said his assailants were two white men who were with a pregnant white woman. He said he was walking near his home in this Cincinnati suburb early Tuesday when he saw a disabled Ford pickup outside a closed gas station.

He said he offered to help, walked back to his home to get a gasoline can, bought gas and returned. He said the two men splashed him with gasoline and threw a lighted match at him.

Metcalfe ran to a nearby bar for help. Bar patrons shouted at him to roll on the ground. Several of them took off their shirts and used them to smother the flames.

He remained in critical condition today with burns over 75 percent of his body.

Police said they were still looking for the three people and the pickup Metcalfe told officers about.

Earlier this month, two white men in Florida were convicted of setting a black man afire. The man was seriously injured in the New Year’s Day attack. One of Metcalfe’s friends said Metcalfe might have been the victim of a copycat crime.

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