A woman was taken into custody after officials said that she allegedly attempted to set Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.‘s childhood residence on fire.
On Thursday (Dec. 7), authorities were looking into why the individual, who was identified as 26-year-old Laneisha Shantrice Henderson, allegedly descended upon the iconic location, which sits in Atlanta‘s Sweet Auburn neighborhood, and proceeded to pour gasoline on the porch and front door. Thankfully, two Utah tourists noticed the reported action and engaged with her before off-duty police officers could restrain her. Henderson has since been charged with attempted arson and interference with government property.
“Tonight, an unfortunate incident occurred at the birth home of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. as an individual attempted to set fire to this historic property,” read a statement from The King Center. “Fortunately, the attempt was unsuccessful thanks to the brave intervention of good samaritans and the quick response of law enforcement.”
It continued, “We thank the Atlanta Police Department, the Atlanta Fire Department, the National Park Service and Mayor Andre Dickens for leading the efforts to ensure the safety of our cherished national landmark and its adjacent neighbors. Our prayers are with the individual who allegedly committed this criminal act.”
Atlanta Fire Department Battalion Chief Jerry DeBerry confirmed to the New York Times that the house did not receive any damage thanks to the passersby. “If the witnesses hadn’t been here and interrupted what she was doing, it could have been a matter of seconds before the house was engulfed in flames,” he said. “It was really about the timing and the witnesses being in the right place at the right time.”
King Jr. lived at the 501 Auburn Avenue NE location for the first 12 years of his life with his parents, grandparents, siblings and other family members. While it’s currently closed for renovations until 2025, the federal government-owned property has provided park ranger-led tours for all visitors.