Laneisha Shantrice Henderson, 26, has since been charged with second-degree arson and, because the home is operated by the National Parks Service, interfering with government property.
According to the Atlanta Police Department, officers were called to the historic home on 501 Auburn Avenue around 5:45 pm Thursday following reports of vandalism in progress.
Upon arrival, they found that the suspect, Henderson, had been stopped from carrying out the crime by a number of civilians, and was being held down by two off-duty officers with the New York City Police Department who just happened to be visiting the home that day.
A preliminary investigation, the APD stated, "indicates that the suspect had poured gasoline onto the property."
Atlanta Fire Department Battalion Chief Jerry DeBerry made it clear that had the bystanders not leaped into action, "it could have been a matter of seconds before the house was engulfed in flames," per WSB-TV.
As the Washington Post reports, while Henderson was detained by the off-duty officers, a group of people who identified themselves as her family arrived on the scene and explained that she was a veteran and had been dealing with mental health issues.
She was taken to Grady Detention Center to undergo an evaluation, and then to Fulton County Jail.
"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 center said in a statement.
"Fortunately, the attempt was unsuccessful, thanks to the brave intervention of good Samaritans and the quick response of law enforcement. 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."
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