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Justice News

Department of Justice
U.S. Attorney’s Office
Middle District of Florida

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Thursday, March 18, 2021

Florida Man Charged with Federal Hate Crime for Setting Fire to Church

WASHINGTON – A Florida man was charged with federal hate crime in Ocala.

Steven Shields, 24, of Dunnellon was charged with setting fire to and damaging the Queen of Peace Catholic Church in Ocala by a federal grand jury in Orlando, who returned an indictment against him.

According to the indictment, Shields intentionally set fire to the Queen of Peace Catholic Church on July 11, 2020. The indictment alleges that he was motivated to set this fire due to the religious character of the church. Shields is charged with one count of intentional damage to religious property, a hate crime charge that falls under the Church Arson Prevention Act, and one count of using fire to commit a felony.

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.

The FBI, the ATF, the Florida State Fire Marshal, the Florida Bureau of Fire and Arson Explosives Investigations, the Marion County Sheriff’s Office, the Marion County Fire and Rescue Department and the Ocala Police Department conducted the investigation. Assistant U.S. Attorney Robert E. Bodnar, Jr. of the Middle District of Florida and Trial Attorney Maura White of the Justice Department’s Civil Rights Division are prosecuting the case. 

For more information and resources about the Department’s work to combat hate crimes, visit www.justice.gov/hatecrimes.

An indictment is merely an accusation and Shields is presumed innocent unless and until proven guilty beyond a reasonable doubt.

Topic(s): 
Civil Rights
Component(s): 
Updated March 19, 2021