Former North Korean prisoner found burned to death in San Diego

Posted at 3:35 PM, Nov 21, 2017
and last updated 2017-11-21 20:13:03-05

SAN DIEGO (KGTV) - The man found on fire in a Mission Bay Park lot last week had recently moved to San Diego from Boston, according to investigators.

Aijalon M. Gomes, 38, was found on fire by an off-duty California Highway Patrol officer driving past the dirt lot near 5200 Pacific Highway just before 11:30 p.m. Friday, San Diego Police said last week.

The CHP officer stopped and tried to administer first aid, but Gomes was pronounced dead at the scene.

RELATED: Off-duty CHP officer spots man on fire in Mission Bay Park field

Homicide investigators said they don't believe Gomes' death was a homicide, "but rather an accidental death or suicide. A final determination cannot be made until the Medical Examiner completes their investigation," according to SDPD Lt. Todd Griffin.

Michael Farrow, Gomes' uncle, confirmed to 10News his nephew had served in a North Korea prison camp.

Gomes made headlines in January of 2010 after he was detained in North Korea. The reclusive regime sentenced Gomes to eight years of hard labor for illegally entering the country from China. He had been teaching English in South Korea.

Former President Jimmy Carter flew to North Korea and negotiated for the teacher's release. Gomes returned to Boston on Aug. 27, 2010.

Gomes had recently moved from Boston to San Diego, according to Griffin. San Diego Fire-Rescue's Arson Strike Team is investigating the cause of the fire.

Anyone with information about Gomes' death was asked to call SDPD's Homicide Unit at 619-531-2293 or Crime Stoppers at 888-580-8477.