ATLANTA – Law enforcement authorities in Atlanta are investigating after a woman tried to burn down the home that was the birthplace of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. The suspect doused gas on the property before people visiting the historic landmark intervened and held her until police arrived.
Officers with the Atlanta Police Department were dispatched Thursday just after 5:45 p.m. to a call at King’s birth home on Auburn Ave. near the King Center, about three miles east of Mercedes-Benz Stadium in downtown Atlanta.
Upon arrival, they found two off-duty NYPD officers who had been visiting the center had a suspect, with her gas canister nearby, detained, WSB-TV reported.
Video from the shameless effort shows a woman dressed in all black liberally pouring gasoline on the home’s front porch, windows and bushes.
Police said two Utah tourists viewing the home were able to intervene before two-off duty NYPD officers also visiting the landmark jumped on the suspect after she pulled out a lighter and attempted to ignite the home. The off-duty officers held the suspected arsonist until Atlanta police arrived.
One witness said the suspect became irritated when she was having trouble spreading the fuel around the property, according to FOX 5 Atlanta.
The female suspect, 26, has been charged with criminal attempt arson and criminal attempt interference with government property.
Law enforcement authorities have not released the woman’s name or provided a motive for the crime.
Atlanta Police Chief Darin Schierbaum noted the bystanders actions “saved an important part of American history tonight.”
Atlanta Fire Department Battalion Chief Jerry DeBerry revealed the home could have burned down quickly had it not been for the actions of those witnessing the crime-in-progress.
“It could have been a matter of seconds before the house was engulfed in flames,” DeBerry told WSB-TV.
A collaborative investigation is taking place involving the Atlanta Police Department, the District Attorney’s Office, the US Attorney’s Office, the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives and the FBI since the home is in the care of the National Park Service.
The property was acquired from the King family in 2018, and has been closed to tours since November due to ongoing renovations, the New York Post reported.
“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 Thursday night.
“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
The King Center showed gratitude for Atlanta’s first responders, and added, “Our prayers are with the individual who allegedly committed this criminal act.”
The residence was built in 1895 and has been a treasured landmark in the community. It was the site of King’s birth on Jan. 15, 1929, and he lived there for the first 12 years of his life, according to the National Park Service.