Bystanders intervened Thursday night to prevent a woman who appeared intent on setting ablaze the Atlanta home in which the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. was born.
Laneisha Shantrice Henderson, 26, has been charged with criminal attempt arson and criminal attempt interference with government property, according to WSB-TV.
Henderson served in the U.S. Navy for four years before leaving the service in 2020, Navy representative Commander Andrew Bertucci said, according to CNN.
The incident took place at about 5:45 p.m. at the historic home where King lived until he was 12, which is currently closed for renovations.
JUST IN: A woman has been charged after trying to burn down Martin Luther King Jr.’s birth home in Atlanta.
26-year-old Laneisha Shantrice Henderson was arrested and charged.
Thankfully, two tourists from Utah noticed Henderson trying to burn down the home and jumped into… pic.twitter.com/cSlrNfaknO
— Collin Rugg (@CollinRugg) December 8, 2023
Utah filmmaker Zach Kempf, 43, said he and a co-worker at first thought that the gasoline being splashed on shrubs was water until the woman holding the red can tried to enter the house.
“Which just seemed weird, so we asked her what she was doing, and she didn’t respond,” Kempf said, according to a New York Times report.
Kempf said the woman dumped the remainder of the container on the porch and went down on the lawn to pick up a lighter. At that point, he called 911 and tried to prevent her from returning to the porch.
“It was a little scary there for a minute because we didn’t know who she was,” Kempf said, according to the Atlanta Journal-Constitution. “We didn’t know if she had weapons on her or anything.”
“She grabbed a lighter from the grass and started to come back up the stairs, so I stood at the stairs and said, ‘you can’t do this,’ and blocked her for about a minute,” Kempf said.
Kempf called for help, which came in the form of the visiting NYPD officers who were able to restrain the woman.
Kempf told the Times that relatives of the woman, who had been looking for her, appeared, looking “very distraught.”
“Obviously, the house is so important, and I’m really glad nothing happened to it,” he said. “But I feel like now I’m mostly just concerned for her well-being.”
Jerry DeBerry, the Atlanta Fire Department’s battalion chief, told reporters that no damage was done, but it was a close call.
If the witnesses hadn’t been there and stopped the suspect, “it could have been a matter of seconds before the house was engulfed in flames. It was really about the timing and the witnesses being in the right place at the right time,” he said.
The King Center released the following statement, according to WSB:
“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. Fortunately, the attempt was unsuccessful, thanks to the brave intervention of good Samaritans and the quick response of law enforcement,” the statement said, adding, “Our prayers are with the individual who allegedly committed this criminal act.”
This article appeared originally on The Western Journal.