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Woman Arrested After Allegedly Dousing Martin Luther King, Jr’s Birth Home With Gasoline

The 26-years-old woman, who is Black, is facing charges including criminal attempt to commit arson and criminal attempt to damage government property.

Sometimes it helps to be nosy. Off-duty New York City police officers and tourists from Utah visiting Atlanta are being credited for stopping an attempt to burn down the birth home of Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. in Atlanta, Fox 5 reports. After reports of vandalism were called in, Atlanta Police rushed to the scene of the tourist attraction on Dec. 7 shortly before 6 p.m. Chief Darin Schierbaum said the tourist witnessed a woman pouring what smelled like gasoline on the plants, porch, and front door of the home.

They immediately stepped in when they saw her pull out a lighter trying to ignite flames. The NYPD officers were able to detain the assailant until Atlanta law enforcement arrived.

The woman, who is Black, hasn’t been identified, but according to Schierbaum, she is 26 years old. She is facing charges including criminal attempt to commit arson and criminal attempt to damage government property. Federal charges could be added since the home is considered federal property. Investigators have located her family to inquire about her mental health.

Battalion Chief Jerry DeBerry of the Atlanta Fire Department credited the bystanders for stepping in, because it could have been a lot worse if they didn’t. “It could have been a matter of seconds before the house was engulfed in flames,” DeBerry said, according to WSB-TV.

The King Center released a statement on what could have been a tragic event for the city of Atlanta and Black history.

“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. Fortunately, the attempt was unsuccessful, thanks to the brave intervention of good Samaritans and the quick response of law enforcement,” the statement read.

“We thank the Atlanta Police Department, Atlanta Fire Department, the National Parks Service, and Mayor Andre Dickens for leading the efforts to ensure the safety of our cherished national landmark and its adjacent neighbors. Our prayers are with the individual who allegedly committed this criminal act.”

Built in 1895, the birth home of the civil rights leader has been undergoing renovations for several weeks. While fire department’s HAZMAT team will work to clean up the gasoline spill, current renovations are scheduled to wrap up by the end of 2025 and the home will remain closed until the project is completed.

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