Atlanta, GA – December 8, 2023
In a disturbing incident that unfolded on Thursday evening, Atlanta police arrested a 26-year-old woman accused of attempting to set fire to the “birth home of civil rights icon Martin Luther King” Jr. The arrest followed a prompt response from vigilant citizens who intervened to thwart the potential arson.
The incident occurred around 5:45 p.m., prompting Atlanta police to respond to a report of vandalism in progress at the historic two-story home situated in the Auburn Avenue Historic District, near the King Center. According to authorities, the suspect, whose identity has not been disclosed, was apprehended after multiple citizens, including two off-duty NYPD officers visiting the center, intervened.
Reports suggest that two tourists from Utah, in Atlanta for work, initially detained the woman after witnessing her pouring gasoline on the property. The quick-thinking bystanders became suspicious when the woman did not provide satisfactory answers to their inquiries about her actions.
“We believe at this time she was pouring gasoline on the porch and the door of the home. Their quick action saved a jewel of our city, something very important to Atlanta,” stated Atlanta Police Chief Darin Schierbaum.
Video footage captured by a witness showed the suspect, dressed in black attire, wielding a large red gas canister and dousing the historic home with a liquid. The police report noted that the woman was not wearing shoes during the incident.
The two men from Utah, realizing the potential danger, pleaded with the woman to stop and, with the help of other bystanders, managed to detain her until law enforcement arrived. The suspect reportedly attempted to ignite the property and bushes using a lighter, prompting the intervention.
Zach Kempf, one of the men who intervened, expressed the tense moment, saying, “It was a little scary there for a minute because we didn’t know who she was. We didn’t know if she had weapons on her, we didn’t know anything.”
The police report revealed that the woman was subsequently taken to a hospital for a psychological evaluation. She faces charges of second-degree attempted arson and interference with government property.
The “birth home of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.,” now a museum under the ownership and operation of the National Park Service, was thankfully spared from damage. The King Center released a statement acknowledging the incident, expressing gratitude for the “brave intervention of good Samaritans and the quick response of law enforcement.” The nonprofit organization added, “Our prayers are with the individual who allegedly committed this criminal act.”
As the investigation unfolds, the motive behind the attempted arson remains unclear, and the community reflects on the significance of protecting historical landmarks associated with the legacy of Martin Luther King Jr.