A woman tried to set fire to Martin Luther King Jr.’s birth home by arriving with a gas canister and drenching the historic property in fuel on Thursday. Tourists recorded a video wherein a 26-year-old woman was seen forcefully pouring gasoline from a sizable red can onto bushes and front windows of the house where Martin Luther King Jr. lived until the age of 12.
According to the police, two tourists from Utah, who were visiting the home, managed to intervene and stop the suspect from carrying out the attempt to burn down the property. The two good Samaritans were identified as two off-duty NYPD officers, according to the authorities.
Trying to Burn Down Heritage Property
In the video, a witness can be heard asking the woman twice, “What are you doing?” She dismisses him by signaling with her hand for him to leave her alone. The witness then tells her, “That’s gasoline.”
The same witnesses later reported that they intervened when they saw her trying to ignite a lighter on the lawn.
In the subsequent footage, the woman is seen pinned to the ground with a knee on her back, while another person appears to be attempting to communicate with her. The two people were identified as off-duty New York City police officers who prevented her from leaving the scene, according to authorities.
They detained her until Atlanta Police officers arrived on the scene.
The 26-year-old suspect has been charged with criminal attempt arson and criminal attempt interference with government property. However, the police have not disclosed her name.
“That action saved an important part of American history tonight,” Atlanta Police Chief Darin Schierbaum told WSB-TV.
Atlanta Fire Department Battalion Chief Jerry DeBerry revealed that the historic house could have quickly caught fire if not for the timely intervention of the witnesses who prevented the suspect from carrying out the arson attempt.
“It could have been a matter of seconds before the house was engulfed in flames,” DeBerry told WSB-TV.
The Atlanta Police Department said that it is collaborating with the District Attorney’s Office, the US Attorney’s Office, officials from the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms, and Explosives (ATF), and the FBI to investigate the attempted arson.
The home is under the care of the National Park Service, which acquired the property from the King family in 2018. It has been closed to tours since November due to ongoing renovations.
“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,” the King Center wrote in a statement Tuesday night.
“Fortunately, the attempt was unsuccessful, thanks to the brave intervention of good Samaritans and the quick response of law enforcement.”
The King Center expressed gratitude for the swift response from Atlanta Police and Fire, saying, “Our prayers are with the individual who allegedly committed this criminal act.”
The historic home, built in 1895, holds significant importance as a cherished landmark honoring the life of civil rights icon Martin Luther King Jr.
King was born at the home on January 15, 1929, and lived there for the first twelve years of his life, according to the National Park Service. The home is located about three miles east of Mercedes-Benz Stadium in Downtown Atlanta.