Florida man charged with driving through church, setting it on fire while others were inside

Steven Shields has been arrested and charged after driving through a church and setting it on fire while people were inside.

From the Marion County Sheriff’s Office (Florida)


Marion County Sheriff’s Office (MCSO) deputies responded to Queen of Peace Catholic Church, located at 6455 SW State Road 200, after receiving reports of someone setting fire to the sanctuary while several parishioners were inside preparing for a morning mass.

Arriving deputies learned that the defendant, Steven Anthony Shields (DOB 1/7/1996), had intentionally crashed a vehicle through the front doors of the church, exited the vehicle and poured gasoline out into the foyer area and then lit it on fire. He then left in the vehicle.

Deputy Josue Gonzalez spotted the vehicle leaving the area and gave chase. The defendant fled until Deputy Gonzalez was able to conduct a P.I.T. maneuver (Precision Immobilization Technique) and disable the fleeing vehicle in the 5900 block of South Highway 441, where the defendant was taken into custody.

The parishioners were able to escape without injury and Marion County Fire Rescue personnel were able to quickly extinguish the fire.

Steven Shields – From Marion County Sheriff’s Office

Per WFTV, deputies said they are investigating after a man drove through a church, then lit a fire while parishioners were inside.

Officials said it happened Saturday morning at the Queen of Peace Catholic Church on Southwest Highway 200 in Ocala.

The man, Steven Shields, then led deputies on a vehicle chase and was later captured, the Marion County Sheriff’s Office said.

Investigator said during an interview, Shields admitted to setting the church on fire.

According to a report, Shields said he targeted the church because of a “mission.” He told investigators that he poured gasoline onto the floors and slipped while doing so. He said he then lit his shoe on fire and threw that onto the gasoline.

The report said Shields told deputies that what he did was “awesome” and smiled and laughed while talking about the incident, stating that he was the “king.”

Investigators said Shields told them he realized his “mission” that morning, and drove to a nearby gas station to purchase the fuel.

Shields said that he is diagnosed with schizophrenia, and currently is not taking his medication, according to deputies.

He was transported to the Marion County Jail. Bail was denied.

From Marion County Sheriff’s Office