Who is Laneisha Shantrice Henderson? Woman who tried to burn MLK home down (2024)

A Florida woman is facing multiple charges after allegedly attempting to burn down the childhood home of Martin Luther King Jr., according to local law enforcement.

Laneisha Shantrice Henderson, 26, is charged with second-degree attempted arson and interference with government property, the Atlanta Police Department (APD) wrote in a press release published Thursday. She was reportedly stopped by multiple citizens from causing any damage, including two off-duty New York Police officers who helped detain her, per The Atlanta Journal-Constitution.

On Thursday at around 5:45 p.m., officers with the ADP responded to a report of vandalism in progress at 501 Auburn Avenue. That is where they say they found Henderson, who according to a preliminary investigation, had poured gasoline onto the property. She was immediately placed under arrest and transported to the Grady Detention Center for psychological evaluation. Henderson will be transferred to Fulton County Jail once discharged.

An ADP spokesperson had no further comment on Friday to Newsweek, aside from saying the investigation is ongoing and could change as it progresses.

Who is Laneisha Shantrice Henderson? Woman who tried to burn MLK home down (1)

According to records obtained by Newsweek, Henderson is from Brandon, Florida, and is registered to vote, but does not currently belong to any political party in the state.

A police report shows that officers seized a gasoline can and fuel at the scene, along with Henderson's iPhone and a black Chevrolet Cruze. Among the citizens who called 911, detained Henderson and required assistance, were two males from Utah who were in town for work-related purposes and were visiting King's home, which is designated as a historical landmark.

"When [the witnesses] arrived they noticed a woman in all black pouring what seemed to be water at the time over the bushes," according to an incident report. "At this moment they didn't think anything of it and proceeded to ask Ms. Henderson if she was upkeeping the plants by watering them but got no response."

They asked additional questions and became more suspicious, eventually noticing the container did not resemble a watering canister, but a gas can.

"When they realized what was going on they started to plead with Ms. Henderson to stop, but she was ignoring them," the report continued. "It also seemed as if she started to rush and pour the gasoline out faster on and around the historical house. They saw no other option but to try to apprehend her, along with the help of other bystanders in the area, they tried to get her detained."

While trying to stop her, Henderson allegedly was trying to spark a lighter to ignite the gas on the property and bushes. Bystanders took the lighter away from her and waited for authorities to arrive. When Henderson was detained, she was wearing black socks and no shoes.

Multiple surveillance cameras in the area reportedly captured the incident on video, which is being submitted as evidence in the case.

Local news station WSB-TV says it spoke to Henderson's father, who related that she is a veteran going through a mental health episode. Her father told them they had been trying to find her for two days.

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Atlanta Police Chief Darin Schierbaum told WSB-TV that the actions of the two Utahans "saved an important part of American history tonight."

"If the witnesses hadn't been here and interrupted what she was doing, I mean, it could have been a matter of seconds before the house was engulfed in flames," Atlanta Fire Department Battalion Chief Jerry DeBerry also told the station.

One of the Utahans, Zach Kempf, told the local news station that the situation was "a little scary for a minute" because nobody knew if Henderson had any weapons on her.

Meanwhile, The King Center released a statement on X, formerly Twitter, on Thursday evening:

"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 statement reads in part. "Fortunately, the attempt was unsuccessful, thanks to the brave intervention of good Samaritans and the quick response of law enforcement."

The home, part of the Martin Luther King Jr. National Historical Park in Atlanta, was purchased by King's grandfather in 1909 for $3,500. King was born there on January 15, 1929, and lived there with his siblings.

The National Park Service, which officially acquired the home in 2018, closed it temporarily starting on November 27 and continuing until November 2025 for rehabilitation work.

Uncommon Knowledge

Newsweek is committed to challenging conventional wisdom and finding connections in the search for common ground.

Newsweek is committed to challenging conventional wisdom and finding connections in the search for common ground.

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Who is Laneisha Shantrice Henderson? Woman who tried to burn MLK home down (2024)


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