Man smiled, laughed after crashing into packed church, setting it on fire


Ocala, Florida — A bipolar schizophrenic Florida man was arrested Saturday after he plowed his vehicle into a Catholic church and then set the building on fire as parishioners were inside preparing for Mass.

According to reports, Steven Anthony Shields, 24, who lives in Dunnellon, FL, crashed his minivan through the front doors of Queen of Peace Catholic Church, located at 6455 SW State Road 200, Ocala, Fl, at approximately 7:30 a.m. on July 11.  Shields then exited his vehicle, poured gasoline in the foyer area of the church, and set it on fire.

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Steven Shields

Shields then fled the scene but was spotted by Marion County sheriff’s Deputy Josue Gonzalez, who stopped Shields by performing a pit maneuver on the minivan.


When he was pulled from the vehicle, the deputy said that Shields “reeked of the smell of gasoline.”

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According to the arrest affidavit, Shields told detectives that what he did was “awesome.” The report states that Shields laughed and smiled as he was being questioned by detectives and referred to himself as the “king” and stated that, he was “on a mission.” He also quoted several Bible scriptures during the interview. Shields said he had a big problem with the Catholic church.

Detectives noted that Shields is a schizophrenic who had stopped taking his medication.

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No parishioners were hurt during the incident.

Shields was charged with Attempted Homicide, Arson-First-degree, Burglary with Assault, and Fleeing and Eluding.

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Mugshots of Steven Shields

Shields has had previous arrests for Contributing to the Delinquency of a Minor, Possession of Drug Paraphernalia, Assault while Committing a Felony, and Domestic Violence.

The FBI is assisting with the investigation.