Atlanta police probe attempted arson at Martin Luther King Jr. birthplace

By Rich McKay

ATLANTA (Reuters) – Atlanta police on Friday were trying to determine what motivated an Alabama woman accused of a failed attempt to set fire to the home where the civil rights leader Martin Luther King Jr. was born.

Bystanders, including two off-duty police officers from New York, stopped the woman as she splashed gasoline on the historic home in Atlanta’s Old Fourth Ward shortly before 6 p.m. on Thursday and helped detain her until police arrived, local media reported.

Laneisha Shantrice Henderson, 26, was charged with second-degree arson and interference with government property, a police report said. She was initially held at a local hospital for evaluation before being booked into the Fulton County Jail in Atlanta without bond early on Friday, court records show.

Police on Friday did not immediately respond to inquiries about further details on the incident.

Jail and court records did not list any information about an attorney for Henderson.

Zach Kempf, a tourist from Utah, told local media including WSB-TV, that he saw the woman throw fuel on the property and grab a lighter.

“It was a little scary there for a minute because we didn’t know who she was, we didn’t know if she had weapons on her, we didn’t know anything,” he told the television station.

Several bystanders including the two off-duty NYPD officers confronted and held the woman, media accounts report.

The property did not catch fire, police said.

The home, which is run by National Park Service, is a popular tourist attraction, where people can see where King lived for the first 12 years of his life. But tours have been suspended as the home closed and undergoing rehabilitation work, according to the park service.

King, who was assassinated in 1968, remains an American hero known for his leadership in non-violent efforts to end segregation and fight Jim Crow laws in the southern states that denied basic rights to Black citizens.

The nearby King Center which honors MLK’s legacy and founded by his widow, Coretta Scott King, issued a statement.

(Reporting by Rich McKay in Atlanta; Editing by David Gregorio)

Leave a Comment