Ocala, FL — The Marion County Sheriff’s Office was called to the Queen of Peace Catholic Church in Ocala at 7:30 am Saturday. Deputies say a man drove his van through the front of the church, poured gas in the foyer, lit the church on fire, then took off.
A deputy saw the van leaving the area and chased it. He eventually used a P.I.T. maneuver to get the van to stop. The suspect, Steven Anthony Shields, was then arrested.
Deputies say Shields confessed to the crime. They say he told them he had a problem with the Catholic church and that he was on a mission. They say he laughed and called himself a “king” as he described his actions as “awesome”. They also say Shields told them he has Schizophrenia and that he was not taking his medication.
Parishioners were able to escape the church. No one was hurt. The fire was put out quickly by Marion County Fire Rescue.
Shields, 24, is now in jail facing several charges including attempted murder and arson.
Sheriff Billy Woods released a statement saying, “Our freedom of worship granted in the Constitution is a freedom that we all hold dear. My deputies and I are sworn to protect that right and will always ensure our citizens can worship in peace. I’m proud of my deputies for capturing this man so quickly and we appreciate the assistance from all of the state and federal agencies that worked alongside of us during this investigation.”
Cox Media Group