Florida man set fire to a statue of Jesus, two houses in one day: police

ok arson
Source: Cirtus County Sheriff's Office; MEGA

Oct. 25 2021, Published 9:17 a.m. ET

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A man in Florida set fire to a statue of Jesus outside a church and ignited two homes in an arson spree, police said.

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Citrus County Sheriff's Office deputies and Citrus County Fire Rescue were dispatched to Our Lady of Grace Catholic Church located at 6 Roosevelt Blvd. in Beverly Hills, Florida, regarding a brush fire around 7 a.m. Oct. 22.

A witness told first responders he noticed a white man wearing a black leather jacket and tan shorts running across the parking lot towards the front of the church, then pour liquid out of a gas can around a tree and a statue of Jesus Christ and set both on fire, according to the Citrus County Sheriff's Office.

Authorities checked the church’s surveillance cameras and reportedly saw a man matching the description given by the witness, trying to light propane tanks near the building on fire.

The Citrus County Sheriff’s Office received additional calls about arson that same day.

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One was a residence off of South Barbour Street in Beverly Hills, where the homeowner told deputies that a fence on the property was set on fire. The homeowner reported the front door and windows were “covered in a liquid, possibly gasoline," according to the sheriff's office.

Another call came from South Wadsworth Avenue in Beverly Hills where first responders were dispatched to a structure fire. On scene, Citrus County Fire Rescue saw flames coming from an open window. The fire rescue crew extinguished the fire, "which caused major damage to the home. Fortunately, the home was vacant at the time of the fire," according to the sheriff's office.

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With the obtained video surveillance footage from the church, detectives identified 25-year-old James Lee Harris of Beverly Hills as a person of interest in these three arson cases, according to the sheriff's office.

Harris was found and arrested around 10 p.m. the same day.

Harris reportedly confessed to setting all three fires, police said.

Harris was arrested on one count of felony arson to a dwelling, one count of misdemeanor criminal mischief, one count of felony arson to a church, and one count of misdemeanor of criminal mischief to a church, and is currently being held at the Citrus County Detention Facility on a $36,000 bond.

"Not only is arson dangerous, but in some cases can be deadly," Sheriff Mike Prendergast said in a statement.

“No one in our community was injured during Harris’ tirade of inconceivable acts. I applaud our deputies, Community Crimes Detectives, and our partners at Citrus County Fire Rescue for working swiftly and diligently to keep our community safe from further harm. I would also like to thank our witnesses for coming forward so quickly with invaluable information that helped us solve this crime."

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