• Unspeakable Times

14 People Who Have Committed Public Suicide

This list of public suicides includes some of the most tragic, controversial, and perplexing tragedies caught on tape. Many of these were politically motivated suicides that took place as the world watched in horror. These 14 men and women each chose to end their lives in the public eye and have been remembered ever since for those decisions.

Many of these public suicides were not committed out of depression or mental illness, but rather to make a very serious statement against a political position. Thich Quang Duc is perhaps the best known for his public suicide. The Buddhist monk set himself ablaze in Saigon and sat silently as he burned to death while a crowd - journalists included - stood and watched. But Duc is just one who sacrificed his own life for a political agenda, as others like Romas Kalanta, Malachi Ritscher, and Ryszard Siwiec performed the same form of self-immolation in political protest.

Others who chose to end their lives in a very public way were believed to be suffering from personal struggles, which led them to a place of desperation and eventually death. Pennsylvania Treasurer R. Budd Dwyer famously shot himself as television cameras rolled during a press conference he called after his conviction on bribery charges. Dimitris Christoulas felt he had no other option when he committed suicide in Greece after his pension was slashed by the government. Jodon F. Romero was being chased by police in Florida when he chose to end his own life on live national television.

Whatever the reason or the manner, each of these men and women will always be connected for their choice to commit suicide with the world watching. They may not be the most famous suicide deaths, but all occurred with many eyes, and sometimes even live television cameras, watching.

  • Thich Quang Duc

    Photo: Malcolm Browne / Wikimedia Commons / Public Domain

    Thich Quang Duc, a Vietnamese Mahayana Buddhist monk, committed public suicide on June 11, 1963, by burning himself to death in the middle of a busy intersection in Saigon. Duc's self-immolation was a protest against the persecution of Buddhists by South Vietnam's Roman Catholic government, as stated in a letter drafted prior to his death.

    After gathering a small group of journalists in the area, Duc sat in the meditative lotus position on a small cushion in the middle of the busy street. He was doused with gasoline, spoke a few words, and then struck a match and dropped it on himself. Duc barely moved and did not make a sound as he was engulfed in flames. Malcolm Browne, the Saigon bureau chief for the Associated Press, photographed the suicide, and his work was later named the World Press Photo of the Year.

    • Age: Dec. at 66 (1897-1963)
    • Birthplace: Hội Khánh, Vietnam
  • Photo: Robert Dwyer / Wikimedia Commons / Public Domain

    Robert Budd Dwyer, the 30th Treasurer of Pennsylvania, became embroiled in a payroll tax scandal while he was in office in the early 1980s. Dwyer was accused of accepting bribes after allegedly receiving kickbacks from a California firm contracted to investigate the payroll tax inconsistencies. Throughout the whole scandal, Dwyer denied the allegations yet was convicted in 1986.

    On January 22, 1987, hours before he was to be sentenced for the bribery matter, Dwyer called a public press conference in which he spoke to reporters and live television crews about his situation, including his distrust of the justice system and his innocence. Dwyer then pulled a .357 Magnum from an envelope and shot himself in the head as cameras rolled.

    • Age: Dec. at 47 (1939-1987)
    • Birthplace: St. Charles County, United States of America, Saint Charles, United States, with Territories
  • MarShawn McCarrel

    Video: YouTube

    Black Lives Matter activist MarShawn McCarrel was just 23 when he shot himself on the steps of the Ohio Statehouse in 2016. No one witnessed his suicide, but McCarrel posted on his Facebook page earlier in the afternoon, saying, “My demons won today. I'm sorry.”

    Before his death, McCarrel had helped plan protests after a Missouri police officer shot and killed Michael Brown. He also founded a youth mentorship program called Pursuing Our Dreams. But his exhausting efforts to build the movement may have ultimately taken a toll on his own mental health. His last tweet said: “Let the record show that I pissed on the state house before I left.”

    • Jodon F. Romero

      On September 28, 2012, Jodon F. Romero, already wanted for a parole violation, stole a Dodge Caliber at gunpoint in Phoenix, Arizona. He was soon located by local law enforcement offers, who followed for a high-speed chase. He continued to evade police until he pulled into the desert, stopped the car, pulled out a handgun, and shot himself in the head.

      Of the many local and national television news stations that were covering the police chase live, Fox News went as far as airing the suicide on national television, though on a five-second delay. News anchor Shepard Smith immediately apologized for the broadcast, as did Fox News Vice President Michael Clemente later.