Florida man laughs about crashing into church then setting it on fire

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Steven Anthony Shields, 24, allegedly crashed his vehicle through the front doors of the Queen of Peace Catholic Church in Ocala and then set a fire in the building's foyer area, according to the sheriff's office. (Marion County Sheriff's Office)

A Florida man who crashed a vehicle into a Catholic church and then tried to set the church on fire told investigators what he did was “awesome,” smiling and laughing while he admitted what he had done.

FOX News reported that the Marion County Sheriff’s Office said Steven Shields, 24, was arrested on July 11 after plowing his van through the front doors of Queen of Peace Catholic Church in Ocala around 7:30 a.m. 

Shields then got out, according to reports, poured gasoline in the foyer and set it alight. Parishioners were inside preparing for Mass, but no one was injured. Marion County firefighters quickly put out the blaze.

Shields drove off after the attack, but was spotted by a deputy who stopped his van by hitting it with his patrol car.

“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.”

According to an arrest affidavit acquired by the Ocala Star-Banner, Shields referred to himself as “king” and said he was on a “mission.”

He also told a detective he has problems with the Catholic Church, according to the affidavit.

Shields, from nearby Dunnellon, said he has been diagnosed with schizophrenia and is not taking his medication, the Star-Banner reported. He faces multiple charges, including attempted second-degree murder, arson, burglary and attempting to elude.

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