Fri. 11:03 a.m.: Woman charged with attempted arson of Martin Luther King Jr. birthplace in Atlanta

This 2018 file photo shows the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr.'s birth home, which is operated by the National Park Service. Atlanta police have arrested a woman Thursday who's accused of trying to burn down the house. (AP Photo/David Goldman, File)

ATLANTA (AP) — Atlanta police have arrested a woman who’s accused of trying to burn down the birthplace of the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. in Atlanta.

Officers arrested the 26-year-old woman around 5:45 p.m. Thursday after responding to a report of vandalism in process at the two-story home in the historic Auburn Avenue Historic District, according to a police statement. Police say a preliminary investigation shows the woman had poured gasoline on the property before people at the site stopped her.

“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,” Atlanta Police Chief Darin Schierbaum told WXIA-TV.

Video shot by a witness and broadcast by local television stations shows a young woman dressed in black pants, a black shirt and a black knit cap holding a large red gas canister standing on the front porch of the house and dousing the home with a liquid. A police report says she was not wearing any shoes.

Two men from Utah, who were in Atlanta for work decided to visit the historic home and noticed the woman pouring a liquid on the bushes, according to the police report. They became suspicious when she did not respond when they asked if she was watering the plants and other questions.

Once they realized it was gasoline that she was pouring, they pleaded with her to stop and then “saw no other option but to try to apprehend her” with the help of other bystanders, the report says. As they tried to detain her, “she was actively trying to spark the lighter to the property and bushes so they had to remove it out of her her hands and get her under control until police responded.”

“It was a little scary there for a minute because we didn’t know who she was,” one of the men, Zach Kempf told WSB-TV. “We didn’t know if she had weapons on her, we didn’t know anything.”

The police report says the woman was taken to a hospital for a psychological evaluation. She’s charged with second-degree attempted arson and interference with government property. The historic site is now a museum owned and operated by the National Park Service.

“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 on X, formerly Twitter. “Fortunately, the attempt was unsuccessful, thanks to the brave intervention of good samaritans and the quick response of law enforcement.”

The statement from the nonprofit organization, which is dedicated to preserving the legacy of King and his wife Coretta Scott King, also said, “Our prayers are with the individual who allegedly committed this criminal act.”


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