Woman Tries To Set Martin Luther King Jr.’s Birth Home On Fire, Police Say

The house could have been torched in seconds if bystanders didn’t intervene, says Atlanta fire chief.

Atlanta police arrested a woman Thursday (Dec. 7) for allegedly attempting to set fire to the birth home of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.

According to the police report, an officer responded at approximately 5:45 p.m. on Thursday to a call about vandalism in progress at the property. People at the scene restrained the suspect, who they said was pouring gasoline on the exterior of the historic house. 

Authorities identified the suspect as Laneisha Shantrice Henderson, 26, of Brandon, Fla. She was charged with attempted arson and interfering with government property. Police transported her to Grady Detention Center for an evaluation before transferring her to Fulton County Jail. The investigation is ongoing.

Local station WSB obtained video from a witness that purports to show Henderson dressed in all black, pouring gasoline on the windows and bushes outside the home. Two Utah tourists at the site stopped Henderson, and two off-duty NYPD officers visiting the center detained her until the Atlanta police arrived.

Atlanta Fire Department Battalion Chief Jerry DeBerry told WSB that “it could have been a matter of seconds before the house was engulfed in flames” had the witnesses not intervened.  

The King family thanked the witnesses for their quick action.

“We appreciate the intervention of several good Samaritans, tourists and off-duty police officers, whose quick thinking and actions averted a tragic loss of such an important symbol of America's civil rights history,” a statement from Martin Luther King III read, according to CBS News.

The Martin Luther King Jr. Center posted the following statement.

The National Parks Foundation bought the home from the King Center for $1.9 million in 2018, according to The New York Times. MLK was born in an upstairs bedroom of the two-story house in 1929 and lived there for 12 years with his parents and grandparents.

Michigan Home Where Malcolm X Once Lived Added To National Register Of Historic Places

Officials had suspended tours of the house in November for renovations and plan to reopen it to the public in 2025.

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