A Florida man allegedly abruptly disrupted the start of a morning church service when he reportedly slammed his car through the doors and set the foyer ablaze using an accelerant.
Near 7:00 am last Saturday, worshippers at the Queen of Peace Catholic Church in Ocala were getting ready for the morning mass to begin when they were reportedly halted by a potentially dangerous incident.
A van reportedly smashed through the doors of the church and came to a halt, before the driver allegedly emerged from the vehicle and began to splash gasoline around the foyer of the house of worship.
The man allegedly proceeded to cause a fire by igniting the fuel before hopping back into the van and fleeing.
The authorities were notified about the incident, and a deputy in the area of the church saw a van fitting the description of the one reportedly seen at the site of the church fire.
The deputy started following the van, but he was unsuccessful in his attempts to get the driver to pull over and resorted to a P.I.T. maneuver to conclude the chase.
24-year-old Steven Anthony Shields was identified as the driver of the van, and it was purported that he had caused the alleged chaos at the church.
Shields was placed under arrest and booked into the county jail with no set bail.
When the authorities talked to Shields about the situation they said that he copped to the incident and allegedly claimed it was inspired by his dislike for the Catholic church.
After allegedly making several incoherent statements, Shields also reportedly disclosed that he is a diagnosed schizophrenic who has not been using the medication he is prescribed to help with the disorder.
According to a statement by the Marion County Sheriff’s Office, “Shields has been charged with one count of Attempted Second Degree Murder, evidencing prejudice, a First-Degree Felony; one count of Arson to a Structure (where persons are normally present and which the Defendant had reasonable grounds to believe to be occupied by a human being), evidencing prejudice, a Life Felony; one count of Burglary of an Occupied Structure (with intent to commit a forcible felony, with assault while armed, using a motor vehicle as an instrumentality, and causing damage to the structure in excess of $1,000), while evidencing prejudice, a Life Felony; and one count of Felony Fleeing or Attempting to Elude.”
No injuries from the incident were reported.
If you or someone you love is suspected of a crime, contact Orange County criminal defense lawyer Staycie R. Sena at (949) 477-8088 for a consultation now.