ATLANTA, GA – A potential disaster was narrowly averted at the birth home of civil rights leader Martin Luther King, Jr., thanks to the quick actions of two tourists and two retired New York City police officers. The four individuals managed to intervene and prevent a woman from setting fire to the historic Atlanta landmark, a site of immense cultural and historical significance.
The incident unfolded on Thursday evening when Atlanta police received reports of an attempted act of arson at the home where King was born. According to Atlanta Police Chief Darin Schierbaum, two tourists from Utah noticed a woman pouring what appeared to be gasoline on the house’s exterior. They quickly alerted the authorities and attempted to intervene when they saw the woman trying to light a match. Their quick thinking and brave actions may have saved one of the city’s most treasured landmarks.
At the same time, two retired NYPD officers who were visiting the area managed to detain the woman until Atlanta police arrived. A video shared with local media shows the woman being held on the ground by officers. Their swift response and law enforcement experience were crucial in preventing a potential catastrophe.
Atlanta Fire Department Battalion Chief Jerry DeBerry noted that the situation could have quickly escalated, as the fuel could have ignited the structure within seconds. The rapid response of the bystanders and the retired officers likely saved the historic home from significant damage, if not destruction.
The woman, identified as 26-year-old Laneisha Shantrice Henderson, was detained and has been charged with second-degree arson and interfering with government property. She is currently held in Fulton County Jail and could face federal charges. The seriousness of the allegations reflects the gravity of the potential harm to a site of such historical importance.
The King Center released a statement expressing relief that the arson attempt was unsuccessful and thanked the quick response of the Good Samaritans and law enforcement. The statement also extended prayers to Henderson. The incident is a stark reminder of the importance of vigilance in protecting our cultural and historical landmarks.
The birth home of Martin Luther King, Jr., located blocks from the King Center, King National Historical Park, and the historic Ebenezer Baptist Church, has been undergoing renovations for several weeks. The project, expected to continue until the end of 2025, includes significant structural and system improvements. This incident underscores the importance of these renovations in preserving the home’s historical integrity.
The home, built in 1895, has played a pivotal role in commemorating the early life of the civil rights icon and his siblings. Over the years, it has undergone various renovations. Still, the current project is set to address significant structural and system improvements, including electrical, HVAC, and fire suppression, as well as structural enhancements, including additional crawlspaces, window and door repairs, exterior siding and porch renovations, exterior painting, driveway re-paving, foundation re-pointing, replacement of the backyard fence, and drainage improvements.