In Atlanta, Georgia, Laneisha Shantrice Henderson, a 26-year-old Florida resident, faces charges of attempted arson and interference with government property following her attempt to ignite Martin Luther King Jr.’s birthplace. The incident, which took place around 5:45 p.m. on Thursday, was captured on video and showed Henderson pouring gasoline over the porch of the historic home on Auburn Avenue. Dressed entirely in black, she was also seen spreading the flammable liquid on plants and near the windows of the house, a significant site near the King Center, King National Historical Park, and the historic Ebenezer Baptist Church.
Two tourists intervened to stop Henderson’s actions, and she was subsequently detained by two off-duty NYPD officers who were visiting the area. The officers held her until Atlanta police arrived and took her into custody. Reports indicate that Henderson, who is believed to have mental health issues, was initially taken to Grady Detention Center for evaluation before being moved to Fulton County Jail.
The motive behind Henderson’s attempt to set fire to the house remains unclear, and she may face additional federal charges related to the incident. Zachary Eugene Kempf, a visitor from Utah who recorded the incident, recounted noticing Henderson’s suspicious behavior and intervened, blocking her attempts to return to the porch after she had descended the steps. Kempf, who was in Atlanta for work and chose to visit the historic site, described Henderson as irritated but not aggressive or violent during their encounter.
Kempf’s quick action in calling for help led to the involvement of the two NYPD officers who were in the area to visit the landmark. The officers apprehended Henderson, who was later seen being escorted away by Atlanta police officers without offering any comment.
Henderson’s family, who arrived at the scene during the incident, described her as a veteran experiencing mental distress. Atlanta Fire Department Battalion Chief Jerry DeBerry highlighted the potential danger of the situation, noting that the home could have caught fire rapidly after the fuel was poured. A HAZMAT team from the fire department was dispatched to clean up the gasoline.
Additionally, a Chevrolet sedan, believed to belong to Henderson, was seized by the police. The house, a framed two-story Queen Anne-style structure built in 1895, is currently under renovation and closed to visitors until 2025. It serves as a poignant reminder of the early life of the civil rights leader and his siblings.