Columbia man, 45, evaluated after threat to set himself on fire


A 45-year-old Columbia man is undergoing psychiatric

evaluation at a Howard County hospital after he threatened to set himself on fire Wednesday night during an effort to patch up his relationship with his estranged wife, county police said.

Police said Joseph Edward Balsinger of the 11200 block of Avalanche Way was arrested after being pulled from his gasoline-doused car at the end of a nearly three-hour stand-off in front of his wife's apartment building in the 8800 block of Town and Country Blvd. in Ellicott City.

The wife, whose name was not disclosed, had gone to police headquarters at 8 p.m. to complain that her estranged husband had called her on the telephone and threatened her.

When police escorted the woman back to her home, they saw the husband sitting in his car.

The man told police he had doused himself and the car with gasoline and was prepared to set off a fire with a cigarette lighter. He said he was armed with two knives.

After cordoning-off the area, police tried to talk the man out of self-immolation but received no response.

Shortly before 11 p.m., police forced open a car door, allowing a firefighter to spray the man with chemical from a fire extinguisher before he could work the cigarette lighter. Police said they found the lighter and two knives in the car.

From the scene, Mr. Balsinger was taken to Howard County General Hospital, where he was treated for minor chemical burns and admitted for evaluation.

After his release, police said, the man faces charges of reckless endangerment, possession of deadly weapons and attempted malicious burning.

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