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Man Arrested After Driving into Ocala Church, Setting It On Fire

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A driver plowed into a north Florida church and then set it on fire, as parishioners were preparing for mass Saturday morning, according to authorities.

The Marion County Sheriff’s Office says 24-year-old Steven Shields crashed a minivan through the front doors of Queen of Peace Catholic Church in Ocala at about 7:30 a.m.

He then exited the vehicle and threw gasoline in the church’s foyer, causing a fire that resulted in “extensive damage” of more than $1,000 in value

There were no injuries.

Shields drove away but was stopped by deputies nearby shortly thereafter.

According to the police report, he told deputies he targeted the Catholic Church because of a “mission.”

In addition, he told them that he had been diagnosed with schizophrenia, but had not been taking his medication.

The police report describes surveillance footage that shows the white van crashing through the double doors, a man pouring gasoline on the church floor, slipping on the gasoline, and then lighting and throwing what is presumed to be a shoe into the room, which was then engulfed in flames.

Shields was charged with attempted second degree murder, three felony counts of evidencing prejudice, arson to a structure, burglary of an occupied structure and felony fleeing or attempting to elude.

He is being held in the Marion County Jail with no bond.