(VitalNews.org) – The Atlanta Police Department has confirmed the arrest of a woman on suspicion of arson after two off-duty police officers intervened in the alleged attempted torching of Martin Luther King Jr.’s birth home. Laneisha Shantrice Henderson, a 27-year-old Navy Veteran from Florida, was reported to have been caught in the act of pouring gasoline over the front of the historic building on December 4, which is usually open to visitors and maintained as a small museum.
Henderson, who is black, was filmed dousing the front porch and surrounding vegetation with what appeared to be gasoline, but was stopped by several tourists, including two off-duty officers from New York who managed to restrain her until the Atlanta police arrived on the scene.
Henderson was later charged with attempted arson and has been held without bond, owing to Judge Holly Hughes’ concern over her potential to abscond and return to her home address in Tallahassee, Florida. Hughes also referred to what she described as the “randomness” of the act, as she could not see a reason for Henderson to want to set fire to the building.
Formerly, Henderson served in the Navy for four years, and was even awarded medals for good conduct. Her family, who arrived at the scene not long after her arrest, told reporters that she had been mentally distressed at the time of the incident, and had been missing for two days. Her father and sisters finally tracked her down using a tracking app installed on her phone, only to find that she had been arrested for attempting to destroy the historic home.
The Superintendent who oversees the care of the house has said that further security measures may have to be considered to prevent future attacks on the building. It is currently closed to visitors until 2025 due to renovations taking place. The King Center released a statement in which they praised the witnesses and law enforcement officers who prevented the house from being destroyed. The statement added that the Center’s prayers were with Henderson.
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