TAMPA, Fla. - Parishioners who headed out to Sunday services may have noticed an extra deputy or two keeping an eye on their place of worship. In light of Saturday’s terrifying attack on an Ocala congregation, the Pasco County Sheriff’s Office wasn’t taking any chances.
The chaos unfolded at the Queen of Peace Catholic Church in Marion County on Saturday morning. Authorities say 24-year-old Steven Anthony Shields crashed his car into the front of the building. He then poured gasoline throughout the foyer and set the church ablaze.
Those inside the building were preparing for the Saturday mass and were able to safely escape. The fire was also put out before any major damage could be done.
“It was good, all the people are still here. You can take our church away but you can't take our love away,” said Laura Moore, a worshipper at the church.
But Shields wasn’t as lucky. After a short pursuit, deputies were able to take him into custody. He’s now facing a long list of charges including second-degree attempted murder and arson.
While no threats were made against any churches in the Bay Area, the Pasco County Sheriff’s Office took to Facebook Saturday night to say they’d be stepping up their patrols around area churches and sanctuaries out of an abundance of caution.
Hillsborough County followed suit, tweeting that they too would be stepping up patrols at places of worship in wake of the attack in Ocala.
Shields told deputies that he is schizophrenic and off his medication. He added that he targeted the church because he was on a ‘mission.’
He’s currently being held in the Marion County jail on no bond.