A woman was arrested after she attempted to burn down civil rights leader Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.’s birth home in Atlanta, Georgia.
Atlanta police said to Channel 2 Action News they were called to the historic home, located near the King Center, just after 5:45 p.m. Thursday.
When they arrived at the scene, two off-duty NYPD officers had already detained the suspect during their visit to the home.
Two Utah tourists who were visiting the home intervened after witnessing the unnamed woman, 26, who was wearing all black, pouring gasoline on the windows, bushes, and front porch.
One of the witnesses said she noticed the woman was irritated as she struggled to spread the fuel around the property.
“That action saved an important part of American history tonight,” Atlanta Police Chief Darin Schierbaum said.
Atlanta Fire Department Battalion Chief Jerry DeBerry told WSB-TV that if the witnesses didn’t stop the suspected arson, the landmark would have burned to the ground in moments.
“It could have been a matter of seconds before the house was engulfed in flames,” DeBerry added.
The suspect was charged with criminal attempt arson and criminal attempt interference with government property.
Due to the property, built in 1895, being a federal landmark, lshe could face further charges. The investigation is ongoing.
Following the incident, the King Center released a statement.
“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 reads.
The statements continued, “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.”
According to the National Park Services, the home, which King lived in until he was 12 years old, was acquired by the King Family in 2018 and is temporarily closed due to renovations.