Neighboring Pastor and Ocala mayor react to Saturday’s church attack

Published: Jul. 12, 2020 at 9:25 PM EDT
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GAINESVILLE, Fla. (WCJB) -Mass was still held at the Queen of Peace Catholic Church in Ocala just a day after a man crashed into their church and lit it on fire. TV20 spoke with a neighboring church and Ocala’s mayor about how concerned they are for worship centers after the attack.

24-year old Steven Shields is in the Marion County jail where his bond has not been set after lighting a fire in the foyer of the Queen of Peace Catholic Church and later fled from police in a mini-van.

Ocala Mayor Kent Guinn said, "yeah I was shocked I mean I haven't had anything like that happen locally since the First Baptist Church got burned down by an arsonist in 1990 so yeah it's pretty shocking."

Pastor Steven Smith who holds church just across the street at Revealing Truth Ministries said, “that kind of really concerns me the fact that he’s young and to have that much hatred or that idea to do something of that magnitude at such a young age that’s concerning. But we have to constantly keep him in prayer and pray that he can get through this with the help of the almighty God.”

A Marion County sheriff's spokesperson says this was an isolated event and they don't believe other churches will be targeted, but having a security plan is still encouraged.

Pastor Smith said about their security measures, “our security plan is closed and you won’t know our security is around they just look like regular people. We just thank God that they’re in place and they have ears and eyes where I don’t. Their main job is to secure us and the people who come to worship with us and make sure they’re always open and alert. So we pray that we will be ready at any time would anything like that happen to us with our security measures we have in place.”

Mayor Guinn added, “all churches should have some type of security and I would probably venture to say the vast majority of them do nowadays.”

A representative for Queen of Peace declined an interview but provided a statement on Saturday saying they are praying for Shields. He has been charged with a variety of crimes including arson of a structure and attempted second-degree murder both with evidence of prejudice. Copyright 2020 WCJB. All rights reserved.