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A man in Florida was taken into custody after running his car into a Catholic church, and immediately setting the building on fire while people were inside preparing for Mass, according to Fox News.
Steven Anthony Shields, 24, plowed into the front doors of Queen of Peace Catholic Church in Ocala around 7:30 a.m., and subsequently poured gasoline all over the foyer just before setting it aflame, according to The Marion County Sheriff’s Office.
Shields attempted to flee, but was spotted by Deputy Josue Gonzalez, who stopped the vehicle by hitting it with his patrol car, the sheriff’s office said.
Officials have confirmed that none of the parishioners were injured, and Marion County firefighters quickly doused the fire.
“Our freedom of worship granted in the Constitution is a freedom that we all hold dear,” Sheriff Billy Woods said in a statement. “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.”
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.
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Shields, who referred to himself as “king” and claimied to be on a “mission,” told a detective he has problems with the Catholic Church, according to the affidavit.
Shields, who lives in nearby Dunnellon, also said he has been diagnosed with schizophrenia and is not taking his medication, the Star-Banner reported.
Shields is facing multiple charges, including attempted second-degree murder, arson, burglary and attempting to elude. He is being held in the Marion County Jail.
The church foyer was heavily damaged, but Mass was still celebrated Saturday evening in the parish hall, according to the Star-Banner.