Police Praise Tourists' Intervention as Woman Charged With Arson Attempt at MLK Birthplace

Police in Atlanta have praised the intervention of visitors at the birth home of Martin Luther King, who stepped in when they saw a woman pouring gasoline onto the house. The “action saved an important part of American history,” police said.

Zachary Eugene Kempf, from Utah, told Storyful 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 the gasoline around the house.

Kempf told Storyful that the woman came down the steps after pouring the fluid. “I told her she couldn’t do this and needed to stop and I stood at the bottom of the stairs and blocked her repeatedly from going up,” Kempft said. “She was never violent or aggressive with me but she kept trying to get past and I kept blocking her.”

Kempf said “some other people” then helped out. Police told WSBTV those included “two off-duty NYPD officers”.

Kempf’s video then shows police arriving and arresting the woman. She was charged with criminal attempted arson and criminal attempted interference with government property.

The King Center thanked “the brave intervention of good Samaritans and the quick response of law enforcement.”

“Our prayers are with the individual who allegedly committed this criminal act,” the center said. Credit: Zachary Eugene Kempf via Storyful

Video transcript

- What are you-- what are you doing?

- Is that like soap?

- What are you doing? Yo, that's gasoline.

- Was it some type of direction? Or, you just felt like this is what you needed to do? OK. Cherokee war chief, what on the Earth does that have to do with an MLK?

Same mentality. OK. And that's why he's putting you in a position in which you can still breathe.

- Where are the police?

- They're on their way.

- But you're--

- Nobody's-- nobody's trying to hurt you. We just want to make sure the house, nothing happens to it.

- And we just--

- Are you comfortable, young lady?

- Looking at this crib--

- OK. As long as you can breathe and you're comfortable, we're good.

- I got to call my sister [INAUDIBLE].

- You guys just messing around?

- No. The police are on their way. It's fine.

- Yeah?

- Yeah.

- Yeah. OK. I hear you calling.

- It's fine. The police are on their way.

- OK. So it fits in a row emergency. Like there's no emergency vehicles.

- Well, it seems like they didn't know the address. Here they come.

- OK. I hear something.


- You weren't who I expected because I got the reports.

- I'm going to tell you actually to come down to the precinct.

- Here they come.

- That's opposite direction.

- You doing OK?

- Mm-hm.

- Sir--

- How are you doing?

- We were-- me and him were looking at the house, just checking it out. We're not from here. And she came up behind us, had a gas can. And at first, she just seemed like she was kind of doing her thing, like I thought maybe she was watering the plants or something.

- She just happened to be using a gas can--

- Yeah.

- --to water the plants.

- And then she had trouble getting it open. So eventually, she unscrewed the top and threw it to the ground. And walked up on the porch and under the rope, and started dumping the gas all over the porch. So instantly, it's like, OK, this is not good. And I said, what are you doing? What are you doing? And you could smell the gas. So she came back down. She dumped the-- she dropped the can in the bushes and then came back down to grab her lighter.

- So let's go ahead and cuff her.

- The vehicle has valid insurance. When you get a chance, [INAUDIBLE] tell everyone when you're ready.

- Hey, ma'am. You all right?

- Mm-hmm.

- Yeah, she's good.

- You want to be checked out by Grady or something? What's going on today? You stand up for us? Hey. You all right?

- Mm-hm.

- What's going on? You know your name?

- Mm-hm.

- Step back over here, please.

- Honey, [INAUDIBLE] the leaves off on her. Oh, my gosh. I'm just a mom. I'm sorry. I'm so sorry.

- This is her phone?

- This is her keys. This is her car right here.

- Yes. And that's her car.

- You got the keys also?

- And this is the lighter that was on her.

- OK.

- Right.

- It's fentanyl in the--

- Fentanyl in the what?