A man was arrested for allegedly driving through the front door of a church in Ocala, Florida, and setting it on fire with several people inside over the weekend.
“The Marion County Sheriff’s Office charged Steven Shields, 23, on Saturday, hours after detectives say he plowed a minivan through the front door of Queen of Peace Catholic Church in Ocala, doused the foyer with gasoline and set it on fire, causing extensive damage,” according to the Associated Press (AP).
Several church members were inside the building preparing for Mass when the attack occurred, the report noted.
After lighting the fire, Shields fled in the van and Deputy Josue Gonzalez spotted the vehicle and gave chase, the sheriff’s office said in a Facebook post:
**UPDATE**Marion County Sheriff’s Office (MCSO) deputies responded to Queen of Peace Catholic Church, located at 6455…
“The defendant fled until Deputy Gonzalez was able to conduct a P.I.T. maneuver (Precision Immobilization Technique) and disable the fleeing vehicle in the 5900 block of South Highway 441, where the defendant was taken into custody,” the post read.
Thankfully, the parishioners escaped without injury and Marion County Fire Rescue personnel quickly extinguished the fire, the update continued.
“In an interview with sheriff’s Detective John Lightle, suspect Steven Anthony Shields said he has been diagnosed with schizophrenia and is not taking his medication,” according to the Ocala Star-Banner.
The report continued:
Shields said that what he did was “awesome,” and he smiled and laughed while he was questioned at the Sheriff’s Office, according to an arrest affidavit. Referring to himself as the “king” and saying he was on a “mission,” Shields told the detective he has problems with the Catholic Church and made reference to several Bible passages, including the Book of Revelation.
Later, Sheriff Billy Woods said in a statement, “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,” he noted.
Following his arrest, Shields was held without bail at the Marion County Jail and faced several charges that included attempted second-degree murder, arson to a structure, and burglary of an occupied structure, according to the Star-Banner.