Two brothers who are retired New York Police Department officers thwarted a 26-year-old woman’s attempt to torch Martin Luther King Jr.’s historic boyhood home while on a visit to Atlanta, Georgia, last Thursday were both recognized with an Outstanding Citizen Award by the NYPD on Saturday.
The brothers, Kenneth and Axel Dodson, said they were visiting family in Atlanta when they heard someone yell that a woman was trying to torch King's birth home located at 501 Auburn Avenue in the Sweet Auburn Historic District of Atlanta. The home, which sits a block east of the Ebenezer Baptist Church, was built in 1895.
Videos posted on social media show the woman, who police have since identified as Laneisha Shantrice Henderson, dousing the historic home with what local police say is gasoline.
BREAKING UPDATE: Woman charged with pouring gasoline, trying to burn down Martin Luther King Jr.'s Atlanta birth home, according to police.— WSB-TV (@wsbtv) December 8, 2023
Here's what we know: https://t.co/4jdq6B3r8lpic.twitter.com/x7JpHQNAzK
“We chased the young lady down the street. At the time, we saw her run across the street. She ran down the alleyway,” Kenneth Dodson said at an awards ceremony on Saturday, NY1 reported. “And that’s when my brother jumped out the car, chasing after her.”
“Soon as we got up there and, you know, yelled for her to get down, she pretty much knew she was caught. She didn’t really put up much resistance,” Axel Dodson added. “We got her on the ground. We didn’t have any handcuffs.”
The brothers detained Henderson until Atlanta Police Department officer arrived on the scene. She was arrested and charged with arson and underwent a psychological evaluation at a local hospital.
On the day of the incident, The King Center praised the brothers as “good Samaritans” in a statement on Facebook.
“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 said. “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.”
NYPD Chief of Patrol John Chell said the hero brothers “saved a part of American history.”
“They might’ve been retired that day, but they immediately put themselves on duty,” Chell said.
“We say when you see something, say something,” NYPD First Deputy Commissioner Tania Kinsella said. “Not only did they see something, they did something. And for that we commend you and we thank you.”
On Saturday, Fulton County Magistrate Judge Holly Hughes denied bond for Henderson citing her lack of a permanent address in Georgia as well as the nature of her crime.
"She gave an address in a different state. So I find that there is a likelihood that she may not return to court," Hughes said, according to Fox 5. "I'm extremely concerned about the randomness of this event. There does not seem to be any reason or tie to that particular location."