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Martin Luther King Jr. home arson suspect named, caught on camera


A Florida woman who was captured on video casually dousing Martin Luther King Jr.’s birth home in Atlanta, Georgia, with gasoline before allegedly attempting to set it on fire has been identified and charged.

Laneisha Shantrice Henderson, 26, has been charged with attempted arson and interfering with government property after she was seen on camera pouring the flammable liquid out of a large red fuel container and onto the porch of the historic wooden property at around 5:45 p.m. Thursday.

The footage also shows the woman – who was dressed in all-black clothing – dousing plants and emptying the liquid against the windows of the Auburn Avenue house, which is located just blocks from the King Center, King National Historical Park and the historic Ebenezer Baptist Church. 

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Mugshot of Laneisha Shantrice Henderson

Laneisha Shantrice Henderson (Atlanta Police Department)

She was stopped in her tracks by two tourists and then apprehended by two off-duty NYPD cops until Atlanta police arrived on the scene and arrested her. 

The woman, who is understood to suffer from mental health issues, was transported to Grady Detention Center for evaluation before being transferred to Fulton County Jail, police said.

It is unclear why she intended to burn the building down. She could also face federal charges in connection with the incident, according to Fox 5.

Zachary Eugene Kempf, from Utah, who shot the shocking video and is one of the two tourists who stopped Henderson, said he was in Atlanta for work reasons when he decided to visit the house. He began recording this footage as he noticed the woman pouring gasoline around the house.

“She seemed a little irritated and on edge,” Kempf told Fox 5.

a woman pouring gasoline into plants

Laneisha Shantrice Henderson pouring what appears to be gasoline into plants at the home of Martin Luther King Jr.’s birth home in Atlanta, Georgia.  (Storyful)

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Kempf said that when Henderson came down the porch steps, he told her to stop, and he then blocked her repeated attempts to go back up.

“She was never violent or aggressive with me, but she kept trying to get past, and I kept blocking her,” he told Storyful.

Kempf said Henderson never responded when he asked her what she was doing.

Henderson then threw the empty canister into the bushes and grabbed a lighter that she had left in the grass next to the porch, Kempf told the New York Times. He then called 911.

Kempf then yelled at two men down the street for help. They happened to be two off-duty NYPD officers, and they then apprehended Henderson until Atlanta Police officers arrived at the scene. The NYPD cops were in town to visit the landmark.

Florida woman Laneisha Shantrice Henderson being arrested by police

Laneisha Shantrice Henderson being arrested for attempting to set fire to Martin Luther King Jr.’s birth home in Atlanta, Georgia (Storyful)

The video also shows one of the NYPD cops holding Henderson down on the ground with her hands behind her back. She is then escorted away by Atlanta police looking glum and not saying anything.  

Kempf said that Henderson’s family also arrived on the scene and said they had been looking for her, according to the New York Times. Her relatives described her as a veteran who was experiencing mental distress.

Atlanta Fire Department Battalion Chief Jerry DeBerry told reporters that, after the fuel was poured, the home could have caught fire in a matter of seconds. The fire department’s HAZMAT team worked to clean up the gasoline on the property.

Martin Luther King Jr.'s birth home in Atlanta

Martin Luther King Jr.’s birth home in Atlanta. (WAGA)

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A Chevrolet sedan, believed to be the woman’s car, was also seized by police.

The home is currently under renovation and closed to visitors until 2025.

Martin Luther King Jr.’s birth home, a framed two-story Queen Anne-style structure, was built in 1895 and played a vital role in commemorating the early life of Martin Luther King Jr. and his siblings. 

Fox News’ Landon Mion contributed to this report.



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