Police detail chaos after man dies in van fire at Daytona Beach Police Department

Deputy chief says man who owned van had previous run-ins with police

DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. – New details were released at a news briefing Wednesday after a man caught fire and died when a van burst into flames outside Daytona Beach police headquarters earlier in the day.

According to investigators, the van pulled into the police department’s parking lot and sat there for about two minutes before lighting up in flames.

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“We had officers in the building that heard an explosion,” said Deputy Chief Jennifer Whittet, of the Daytona Beach Police Department. “It turns out that we believe that (the explosion) was the tires on the vehicle that were burning.”

Whittet said people began running out of the building before seeing something engulfed in flames and bringing fire extinguishers to battle the fire as best they could before a fire rescue team arrived.

According to Whittet, the state fire marshal determined the outburst of flames was not due to a mechanical issue, explosive or bomb, but an incendiary device inside the vehicle. She said the van was “burned down to just the core” with the mirrors and windows “completely melted down.”

“The fire marshal did take some samples. There was a plastic container that had some sort of liquid in it. Don’t know what kind of liquids, don’t know if it meant anything to the investigation. But they’re also saying that it was not an explosion,” Whittet said.

Whittet went on to say the man to whom the vehicle was registered has not been positively identified as the person who died in the flames.

That same man, however, did have a previous police record and was Baker Acted three times by police in 2019.

“I don’t know if he didn’t get the help he was looking for or what he wanted from police, but at that time he threatened to blow up the FBI building in Jacksonville,” Whittet said.

She added her department was looking into more recent run-ins involving the man, discovering a possible incident in 2020 in which he threatened to blow up the police department and a federal building.

Whittet said there were no problems detected after the incident following a thorough search of the Daytona Beach Police Department headquarters by the Volusia County bomb squad.

About the Author:

Samantha started at WKMG-TV in September 2020. Before joining the News 6 team, Samantha was a political reporter for The Villages Daily Sun and has had freelance work featured in the Evansville Courier-Press and The Community Paper. When not writing, she enjoys travelling and performing improv comedy.