Man charged with hate crime in Catholic church arson attack

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A man accused of setting a Florida church on fire was being held without bail Sunday on charges that include attempted second-degree murder and arson.

WASHINGTON (WFLA) – A man accused of setting a Florida church on fire last year is facing a federal hate crime charge.

Court records show that a federal grand jury in Orlando returned an indictment on Wednesday against 24-year-old Steven Shields.

He’s charged with using fire to commit a felony and intentionally damaging religious property. He also faces state arson and burglary charges. According to the indictment, Shields intentionally set fire last July to the Queen of Peace Catholic Church in Ocala.

The Marion County Sheriff’s Office said last year that Shields plowed a minivan through the church’s front door, doused the foyer with gasoline and set it on fire.

Shields told detectives what he did was “awesome,” and he smiled and laughed, the affidavit said. He told detectives he was “on a mission,” called himself “king” and that he has problems with the Catholic Church and referenced passages in the Bible’s Book of Revelations.

If convicted, Shields faces a maximum term of 20 years imprisonment for intentionally damaging religious property. Shields faces an additional mandatory minimum of 10 years for using fire to commit a felony. He also faces up to three years of supervised release, a $250,000 fine and restitution.

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