The 24-year-old driver is arrested after plowing a minivan into Florida church and setting it on fire
The 24-year-old driver is arrested after ‘plowing a minivan into a Florida church before pouring gasoline into the foyer and setting it on fire’ as parishioners prepared for the masses
- Steven Anthony Shield, 24, was arrested after officers said he plowed his minibus into a church in Ocala, Florida and set it on fire while parishioners were inside
- Municipalities were getting ready at the Catholic Church of Our Lady of Peace on Saturday when police said Shield’s minivan drove into the house of worship
- Shields is said to have once poured gasoline into the foyer of the church, which he set on fire before fleeing
- Church residents escaped unharmed and the flames extinguished by Marion County Fire Rescue after being called to the scene
- A Marion County Sheriff’s Office representative later arrested Shield after a chase and stopped his vehicle with his patrol car
A Florida man was arrested on Saturday after allegedly driving his minivan into a Catholic church and then setting it on fire as congregation members prepared for mass, authorities said.
Steven Anthony Shield, 24, was arrested after police said he plowed his minivan at Our Queen of Peace Catholic Church in Ocala, 200 State Road, and set fire to the shrine before fleeing into his vehicle.
Church residents escaped unharmed and the flames were extinguished by the Marion County Fire Department. Sheilds was detained by a Marion County Sheriff deputy after a motor vehicle hunt.
Steven Anthony Shield, 24, was arrested after police said he plowed his minivan into Our Queen of Peace Catholic Church in Ocala, Florida on Saturday and set fire to the sanctuary before fleeing into his vehicle.
Church residents escaped unharmed and the flames were extinguished by the Marion County Fire Department. Smoke is depicted that still lingers in the sanctuary after the fire was extinguished
Snakes are shown leading to the sanctuary of the Church after the Marion County Fire Department extinguished the flames from the deliberately placed fire
According to court documents, Shields told investigators that he is mentally ill, but has stopped taking his medication, the Ocala Star-Banner reported.
Shields told police that what he was doing was “great,” and he smiled and laughed, the affidavit said. He told investigators that he was “on a mission,” calling himself “king,” and having problems with the Catholic Church and references to passages in the Bible book of Revelation.
He is being held by the Marion County Sheriff’s Office on numerous charges, including one count of first-degree murder attempt, first-degree crime that reveals prejudice and arson (where individuals are normally present).
Police said they had reasonable grounds to believe that Shields knew the church was occupied when he reportedly entered the hall.
Once inside, Shields reportedly poured gasoline into the sanctuary and set it on fire before taking off in his minivan, according to a police account on Facebook.
Deputy Josue Gonzalez, the sheriff’s office, said, “saw the vehicle leave the area and chased it.”
“The suspect fled until Deputy Gonzalez was able to perform a PIT (Precision Immobilization Technique) maneuver and disable the fleeing vehicle at block 5900 of South Highway 441, where the suspect was taken into custody,” the sheriff’s office said.
A minivan depicted by police saying that Shields used to flee are depicted after being disabled by a deputy who used a disabling technique to stop the vehicle
Sunday services were held in another part of the church.
Sheriff Billy Wood released a statement after the attempted arson, stating that “Our freedom of worship afforded by the Constitution is a freedom we all hold dear.”
“My deputies and I have vowed to protect that right and will always ensure that our citizens can worship in peace,” the sheriff explained.
“I am proud of my deputies for catching this man so quickly and we appreciate the help of all state and federal agencies that have worked alongside us during this investigation.”
Sheriff Billy Wood released a statement after the church attempted arson (pictured), stating that “Our freedom of worship afforded in the Constitution is a freedom we all hold dear.”