Two Visitors Prevent Burning Of MLK Jr.’s Birthplace

[edward stojakovic from Portland, OR, United States, CC BY 2.0 , via Wikimedia Commons]

A black-clad African American woman was prevented from burning down the birthplace of Martin Luther King, Jr. earlier in the week in what’s being labeled by some as a “race hoax” by some and an example of veterans needing mental health services by others. 

Two bystanders prevented the woman, Laneisha Shantrice Henderson, from burning the historic building down, catching her attempt to spread gasoline on the porch of the house on camera. 

“That action saved an important part of American history tonight,” Atlanta police told reporters.

The New York Times writes:

Two visitors from Utah interrupted the woman as she was pouring gasoline on the porch and on the door of the home, Darin Schierbaum, the Atlanta police chief, told reporters on Thursday.

Two off-duty New York Police Department officers who had been visiting the house then chased her down and detained her until the officers from the Atlanta Police Department arrived, he said.

Zach Kempf, 43, a filmmaker from Salt Lake City who was there with his co-worker, said he first thought she was simply watering the shrubs in front of the house. Suddenly, she rushed up the stairs and began yanking on the screen door, trying to get in the house.

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.

Henderson’s family claimed they were looking for her and that she was having a mental health episode. 

Fox News reported that “the woman, who is understood to suffer from mental health issues, was transported to Grady Detention Center for evaluation before being transferred to Fulton County Jail, police said.

It is unclear why she intended to burn the building down. She could also face federal charges in connection with the incident, according to Fox 5.

Atlanta Fire Department Battalion Chief Jerry DeBerry told reporters that, after the fuel was poured, the home could have caught fire in a matter of seconds. The fire department’s HAZMAT team worked to clean up the gasoline on the property.”

The birthplace of Martin Luther King Jr. is a two-story Queen Anne-style building constructed in 1895. It holds immense significance in commemorating the early life of Martin Luther King Jr. and his siblings and is owned by the National Parks Service. 

The home is currently under renovation and closed to visitors until 2025.

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