ATLANTA - The family of the veteran who set himself on fire in front of the Georgia State Capitol building says the 58-year-old has passed away from his severe injuries Monday afternoon at Grady Memorial Hospital.
The family told FOX 5 News retired airmen John Watts loved his country and loved people. Still, his oldest daughter Michelle Travers and his son-in-law Lee Travers believe he did not always get loved back the way he deserved
"He had really big heart," Michelle Travers said. "And he was not a danger to society. He just needed a lot of help."
The couple said they were stunned to hear about their loved one's bizarre attack on himself – setting himself on fire. However, they did know he had struggled for year with mental health challenges. they claim he also struggled to get treatment from the Veterans Administration. First in Maryland when Watts lived with them and again when he moved back home to the Atlanta area in the winter.
" And [we] were under the impression he was getting the help he needed," Travers said. "Through text messaging and phone calls, I was under the impression that he was OK."
It turns out Watts was homeless.
"This [incident] was his outcry for help," Travers said, theorizing.
Michelle said she knows there are are other veterans and families dealing withe the same issues and has this advice:
"Keep an eye on them. Touch base with them. Make sure they are OK," she said. "I would hate to see this happen to anyone else."
Veterans Affairs provided this comment:
The Atlanta VA Health Care System is deeply saddened by this tragic incident and our thoughts and prayers are with the Veteran and his family during this difficult time.
All VA health care facilities provide same-day primary and mental health care services for Veterans who need them and we remain deeply committed to addressing the needs of Veterans at risk and in distress.
We encourage any Veterans in need of urgent help to visit one of our health care facilities or contact the Veterans Crisis Line (VCL) at 1-800-273-8255 (Press 1).