A lawyer well known for his work in gay rights and environmental advocacy burned himself to death in a Brooklyn park on Saturday as a protest against fossil fuels.
The remains of David Buckel, 60, were found by civilians passing through the New York park, and police say he was pronounced dead at around 6:30 a.m EST.
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The New York Times reports that it received an emailed copy of Buckel’s suicide note, in which he wrote that he hoped his death was an “honorable” one and that it “might serve others.”
The note also stated that “Pollution ravages our planet, oozing inhabitability via air, soil, water and weather. Most humans on the planet now breathe air made unhealthy by fossil fuels, and many die early as a result – my death by fossil fuels reflects what we are doing to ourselves.”
Buckel apparently left the note in a shopping cart in close proximity to where his remains would be found the following day. According to the Times, authorities had removed Buckel’s body by 11 a.m., leaving a black, circular patch.
Buckel was the lead attorney in a lawsuit involving Brandon Teena, a transgender man who was murdered in Nebraska. Hilary Swank won an Academy Award for her portrayal of Teena in the 1999 movie Boys Don’t Cry.
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Buckel also served as marriage project director at Lambda Legal, a national organization that fights for LGBTQ rights, where he was the strategist behind same-sex marriage cases in New Jersey and Iowa. Friends confirmed that after Buckel left Lambda Legal he got involved with environmental activism.
Susan Sommer, a former Lambda Legal attorney who is now the general counsel for the Mayor’s Office of Criminal Justice in New York City, told the Times that Buckel “was all about justice, but he was also all about what it means to be human.”
Sommer added, “He was a very smart and methodical lawyer. He knew his craft and his trade and was strategic in how to build the blocks toward a sweeping victory.”
Buckel noted in his letter that he was fortunate to have “good health to the final moment,” and added that he hoped his death would lead to increased action on environmental concerns.
“Honorable purpose in life invites honorable purpose in death,” he concluded.
-With files from the Associated Press.
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