A woman was arrested after she poured gasoline on the birth home of slain civil rights icon Martin Luther King Jr. in an alleged attempt to set the property on fire.
On Thursday evening, police in Atlanta responded to reports of vandalism in progress at the historic site on Auburn Avenue near the King Center where the 26-year-old suspect’s attempted arson was foiled by two tourists from Utah who were viewing the home and observed the woman who was dressed in black pouring the gasoline from a canister that she reportedly had brought to the scene.
The woman’s attempted arson was caught on video as she is seen on the porch of the home, splashing gasoline on the windows as one of the bystanders is heard asking “What are you doing? You know that’s gasoline.”
(Video: YouTube/11 Alive)
When the cops arrived at the scene, the woman was being held down by two off-duty police officers from New York who were visiting the cherished landmark which was spared from being torched by sheer luck.
“That action saved an important part of American history tonight,” said Atlanta Police Chief Darin Schierbaum, according to WSB-TV which reported on the shocking incident.
According to Atlanta Fire Department Battalion Chief Jerry DeBerry, the MLK birth house would have been burned down in mere moments.
“It could have been a matter of seconds before the house was engulfed in flames,” he said.
(Video: YouTube/Fox 5 Atlanta)
A Salt Lake City filmmaker, 43-year-old Zach Kempf, who was at the property with his co-worker said that he first thought that the woman was watering the bushes in front of the house before she charged up the stairs and tried to get into the property.
“Which just seemed weird,” he said, according to the New York Times “so we asked her what she was doing, and she didn’t respond.”
“She then dumped the contents of a five-gallon container onto the porch, threw the empty canister into the bushes and grabbed a lighter that she had left in the grass next to the porch. Mr. Kempf blocked her with his body as she tried returning to the porch with the lighter in hand. He called 911,” the outlet reported.
Kempf said that the attempted arsonist had a “nervous energy” but “wasn’t aggressive” and eventually left the historic property and walked down the street.
“And I yelled at the two guys down the street that she was trying to set the house on fire and to follow her,” he said.
“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 said in a statement posted to the X platform. “Fortunately, the attempt was unsuccessful, thanks to the brave intervention of good samaritans and the quick response of law enforcement.”
The King Center released a statement regarding the recent attempt to set fire to Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.’s birth home pic.twitter.com/q499vpzTji
— The Martin Luther King, Jr. Center (@TheKingCenter) December 8, 2023
“We thank the Atlanta Police Department, Atlanta Fire Department, the National Parks Service and Mayor Andre Dickens for leading the efforts to ensure the safety of our cherished national landmark and its adjacent neighbors. Our prayers are with the individual who allegedly committed this criminal act,” the statement read.
“Martin Luther King, Jr. was born January 15, 1929, at 501 Auburn Avenue, the home of his maternal grandparents. For the next twelve years, he lived here with his grandparents, parents, siblings, other family members, and borders. The home is located in the residential section of ‘Sweet Auburn’, the center of black Atlanta,” the King Center states on its website.
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