OCALA, Fla. (WJAX) -- The Marion County Sheriff’s Office said a man drove his van through the front doors of the Queen of Peace Catholic Church in Ocala at 7:30 a.m. Saturday, poured gas in the foyer, lit the gas on fire, then fled as parishioners were congregating inside.
A deputy saw the van leaving the area and chased it, stopping the fleeing vehicle with a P.I.T. maneuver, and Steven Anthony Shields was arrested.
Deputies said 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. He laughed and called himself a “king” as he described his actions as “awesome,” deputies said. Shields told them he has schizophrenia and that he was not taking his medication.
Parishioners were able to escape the church and no one was hurt. The fire was put out quickly by Marion County firefighters.
Shields was charged with one count of attempted second-degree murder; one count of arson to a structure; one count of burglary of an occupied structure; and one count of felony fleeing. He was held in the Marion County Jail without bond.