CEDAR HILL — A female officer was critically burned and two others injured after a man set himself on fire in the parking lot of a Cedar Hill shopping center Wednesday afternoon.
Witnesses said the suspect was shot by officers as he fled across the lot after he set himself ablaze inside a Wingstop.
A police spokesman said three officers were injured. The critically injured officer was identified as Officer Ann McSwain. She was airlifted to Parkland Memorial Hospital and remained hospitalized Wednesday night. Police said she was in a lot of pain.
McSwain was named the department's Officer of the Year in 2013.
"Officer McSwain will require additional medical treatment in the form of surgery to address her burn injuries sustained while trying to apprehend the suspect," Cedar Hill Police Chief Steve Rhodes said. "We want to express our sincere thanks to the young man [Spencer Stroud] who rendered aid to Officer McSwain until the paramedics arrived yesterday afternoon. His act of kindness and caring will not be forgotten by the officers of the Cedar Hill Police Department or our community."
Officers Mike Hernandez and Brandon Woodall were treated for their injuries and released.
The suspect's brother told News 8 he was burned over 65 percent of his body.
According to Cedar Hill police spokesman Corky Brown, officers were called to the shopping center, where there was a report of a man who smelled of gas..
Robert Gonzales said he witnessed the incident unfold. According to Gonzales, the female officer arrived at the scene and asked the suspect to put his hands up.
"He's not really stopping," he said. "He doesn't really care."
The witness said the officer then pulled out a Taser.
"That's when he starts threatening her," he said.
Gonzales said the suspect was carrying a plastic bottle that appeared to hold some type of accelerant. According to the witness, the suspect then took off on foot into the Wingstop as two other officers arrived at the scene.
Witnesses at the scene said the man yelled out, "I'm going to set myself and the restaurant on fire."
"Ten seconds into the Wingstop, you hear screaming," Gonzales said. "That's when the [suspect] left the Wingstop completely on fire. He looked like a human torch. He had no facial features."
Gonzales said officers fired at the suspect as he ran on fire across the parking lot. The witness said he and another person helped put out flames that engulfed the female officer.
"Her chest plate saved her," he said.
The Dallas County Sheriff's Department has taken the lead in the investigation.
Following the incident, Wingstop released a statement.
"We are deeply saddened by the reported events that took place in the parking lot outside a Cedar Hill Wingstop location today, and our thoughts are with the injured parties. At this time we have no additional information to provide, but we are working closely with the authorities in their investigation."