Man sets fire in Florida church after plowing van inside

Elias Hubbard
July 13, 2020

A man from Florida was hunted down and arrested by police after he allegedly drove his auto into a church, set the building on fire while people were still inside, and then fled the scene, according to authorities.

Steven Anthony Shield, 24, was arrested after cops say he plowed his minivan into Our Queen of Peace Catholic Church in Ocala, on State Road 200 and set the sanctuary on fire before fleeing in his vehicle.

Several church members were inside the building preparing for Mass when the attack occurred, the report noted. Police chased Shields down Highway 441, and the vehicle was disabled when MCSO Deputy Josue Gonzales performed a Precision Immobilization Technique to stop the auto.

Thankfully, all of the parishioners were able to escape the church without injuries. Marion County Fire Rescue extinguished the flames relatively quickly, but the damage to the church is described as "extensive".

According to an arrest affidavit obtained by the Ocala Star-Banner, Shields told investigators what he did was "awesome" and smiled and laughed while admitting to setting the church ablaze.

Shields allegedly tried to burn down the Queen of Peace Catholic Church Saturday.

Sheriff Billy Wood released a statement after the attempted arson, proclaiming that 'Our freedom of worship granted in the Constitution is a freedom that we all hold dear'.

"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. "My deputies and I are sworn to protect that right and will always ensure our citizens can worship in peace".

Shields was taken into custody after Marion County Deputy Josue Gonzales conducted what's known as a "Precision Immobilization Technique" or PIT maneuver to disable the alleged arsonist as he fled the scene in his vehicle.

The man drove off, but was stopped by deputies nearby.

Other reports by Click Lancashire

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