A 26-year-old woman is in police custody after attempting to wipe Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.‘s birth home off the map.
Local Atlanta police arrested Laneisha Shantrice Henderson on Dec. 7 outside of the historic site on Auburn Ave. She was charged with criminal attempt arson and criminal attempt interference with government property, per WSB-TV.
Here’s What Police Say Happened At Martin Luther King Jr.’s Home
A witness, filmmaker Zach Kempf, said Henderson was pouring the gasoline on the shrubs. Then, she rushed up the stairs and tried to enter the home by yanking on the screen door.
Video obtained by the New York Times shows Henderson standing on the front porch of the Martin Luther King Jr. home with a five-gallon red, plastic, gasoline tub. The clip shows her pouring the gasoline on one front window and in the nearby bushes.
Kempf said she threw the empty canister into the bushes then grabbed a lighter from the grass area near the porch. He reportedly blocked her from getting back on the porch with it and called 911.
Though she seemed “nervous,” Kempf said she wasn’t “aggressive.” He was the one who called over the two off-duty NYPD officers who detained her.
“The action saved an important part of American history tonight,” APD Chief Darin Schierbaum said reportedly said on Thursday.
According to the New York Times, the woman’s father and sisters said Henderson suffers from a mental illness. The family arrived on the scene shortly after the bystanders stopped the reported veteran. They revealed they had tracked the woman using her phone location signal.
BREAKING UPDATE: Woman charged with pouring gasoline, trying to burn down Martin Luther King Jr.'s Atlanta birth home, according to police.
Here's what we know: https://t.co/4jdq6B3r8l pic.twitter.com/x7JpHQNAzK
— WSB-TV (@wsbtv) December 8, 2023
Martin Luther King Jr.’s home is a two-story Queen Anne-style house dated to 1895. The civil rights activist lived in the home for the first 12 years of his life. It is now a federal landmark and part of Atlanta’s Auburn Avenue Historic District.
Police are still investigating the attempted arson.