2 retired NYPD officers stop woman allegedly throwing gas on MLK Jr.'s birth home in Atlanta

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Saturday, December 9, 2023
Retired NYPD officers thwart woman pouring gas on MLK Jr. home
Josh Einiger spoke to the retired officers who stopped the suspect.

ATLANTA (WABC) -- Two retired NYPD officers detained a woman allegedly attempting to throw gasoline on Rev. Martin Luther King Jr.'s birth home in Atlanta.

Police say the 26-year-old woman, dressed in all black, was pouring gasoline on the home's front porch, windows, and bushes around 5:45 p.m. Thursday afternoon in the historic Auburn Avenue Historic District.

That is when two tourists from Utah spotted her and intervened, asking the woman what she was doing.

Two more men then held her until Atlanta police arrived. They told responding officers they were retired off-duty NYPD officers visiting the historical landmark.

The retired officers, brothers Kenneth and Axel Dodson, joined Eyewitness News Extra Time after returning from Atlanta, Georgia where they had been visiting family. They described how they apprehended the suspect.

Retired NYPD officers join Extra Time and describe how they detained a woman who poured gasoline on the birth home of Martin Luther King Jr. in Atlanta.

"We caught the tail end of it, so she starts walking away, she was all the way down the block, we hopped in the car and went after her, chased her in the backyard and the driveway and got her out," Axel Dodson said.

They put their old training to good use.

"Just the day before my father asked me if I miss the job, and I said 'I do miss that adrenaline rush being out there from time to time and doing that,' so as we were doing that, it was fun for me because I had my brother with me and to be active like that again felt good," Kenneth Dodson said.

Kenneth Dodson said that he and his brother didn't realize the significance of what they done until it was over.

Laneisha Shantrice Henderson, whose family says she is a veteran suffering from PTSD, was charged with second-degree attempted arson and interference with government property, but she may face federal charges. The historic site is now a museum operated by the National Park Service.

"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 King Center said in a statement posted on X, formerly Twitter. "Fortunately, the attempt was unsuccessful, thanks to the brave intervention of good Samaritans and the quick response of law enforcement."

The statement from the nonprofit organization, which is dedicated to preserving the legacy of King and his wife Coretta Scott King, also said, "Our prayers are with the individual who allegedly committed this criminal act."

Kenneth Dodson said it was a blessing that he and his brother happened to be there.

They say that if they had not stopped Henderson from using her lighter, the treasured jewel of American history would have likely burned to the ground.

(The Associated Press contributed to this report.)

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