Polk deputies arrest pastor who planned to burn Qurans - WFLA News Channel 8

Pastor who planned to burn Qurans to face Polk judge

Posted: Updated:
MULBERRY, FL (WFLA) -

Law enforcement officers arrested a Florida pastor Wednesday as he drove to a park to light nearly 3,000 Qurans on fire to protest the Sept. 11, 2001 terrorist attacks.

Polk County sheriff's deputies arrested Pastor Terry Jones, 61, and his associate pastor, Marvin Sapp Jr., 44, each on a felony charge of unlawful conveyance of fuel as they traveled in a pickup truck towing a large barbecue-style grill filled with Qurans soaked in kerosene. Jones had said he was heading to a nearby park to burn 2,998 Qurans - one for every victim of the Sept. 11, 2001 terrorist attacks.

Sheriff's officials said Wednesday night that Jones was also charged with unlawful open-carry of a firearm, a misdemeanor, and that Sapp faces a charge of having no valid registration for the trailer. He says Fire Department air tests confirmed the kerosene could have exploded.

"And it showed that it was flammable at that time while he pulled it down the road. So he was potentially driving a bomb down the road had there been a crash," said the Sheriff. 

Both men were booked Wednesday into the Polk County jail.  If they don't bond out Thursday morning, they will have a judge at 1 p.m. for their first appearance hearings.

Followers of Jones' church say the arrests were set up stop their protest.

"Burning the Quran is making a statement that the book is dangerous," said Fran Ingram. "So I think that's helpful to people who follow it, thinking it isn't dangerous."

Mulberry's mayor, along with the area elected officials, a sheriff's deputy and several Polk County residents have talked about the need to express love and tolerance for all faiths on Sept. 11.

Jones is the pastor of a small evangelical Christian church. He first gained attention in 2010 when he planned to burn a Quran on the anniversary of 9/11, although he eventually called it off.

His congregation did burn the Muslim holy book in March 2011 and last year he promoted an anti-Muslim film. All three incidents sparked violence in the Middle East and Afghanistan.

The most violent protest happened after the 2011 Quran burning as hundreds of protesters stormed a U.N. compound in Mazar-i-Sharif in northern Afghanistan, killing seven foreigners, including four Nepalese guards.

Jones has repeatedly ignored pleas from the U.S. military asking him not to stage his protests. Military officials say his actions put American and Western troops in Afghanistan and elsewhere in danger.

Mulberry is a town of about 3,000 between Orlando and Tampa and has no connection to Jones' church, which recently moved out of its Gainesville building.

An Egyptian court convicted Jones, along with seven Egyptian Coptic Christians, in absentia, sentencing them to death on charges linked to the film. The ruling was seen as largely symbolic because Jones and the other defendants live outside of Egypt.

Just last week, a federal judge in Michigan issued a summary judgment in favor of Jones and his organization, Stand Up America Now, against the city of Dearborn for requiring Jones and his organization to sign a city-issued agreement in order to speak on public property in front of a Dearborn mosque in 2012.

Earlier Wednesday, about 75 people gathered in Mulberry for an interfaith prayer service to counter Jones' actions.

Mike Ghouse, who has organized a 9/11 prayer service in his home state of Texas for nine years, brought his event to Mulberry because of Jones' planned Quran burning. He initially had planned to hold the service in Texas but teamed with a group of Mulberry residents who had organized an anti-Jones Facebook page.

"Everyone has a right to believe what they believe," said Ghouse, adding that it was Jones' right as an American to express himself.

Others said that while Jones was free to say or do whatever he wanted, the people of Mulberry didn't want the world to think that the residents condone or agree with Jones' views.

Polk County resident Butch Rahman said, "We don't buy what Jones is selling."

  • 8 On Your SideMore>>

  • Community reaches out to Spring Hill family after theft of lawn equipment

    Community reaches out to Spring Hill family after theft of lawn equipment

    Monday, September 1 2014 6:41 PM EDT2014-09-01 22:41:35 GMT
    Michael Depace wants to say "thank you" and give a huge hug to everyone that reached out after a thief stole $3,500 worth of lawn equipment from him.
    Michael Depace wants to say "thank you" and give a huge hug to everyone that reached out after a thief stole $3,500 worth of lawn equipment from him.
  • FL vehicle registration renewal fees drop

    FL vehicle registration renewal fees drop

    Monday, September 1 2014 11:48 AM EDT2014-09-01 15:48:49 GMT
    That little gift you get from the state on your birthday every year, to renew your car tag, is going to be cheaper starting Monday.  The cut will save drivers about $13 to $25 depending on the size of their vehicle.
    That little gift you get from the state on your birthday every year, to renew your car tag, is going to be cheaper starting Monday.  The cut will save drivers about $13 to $25 depending on the size of their vehicle.
  • Mold takes over St. Pete condo, creeps into neighbors' homes

    Mold takes over St. Pete condo, creeps into neighbors' homes

    Friday, August 29 2014 5:48 PM EDT2014-08-29 21:48:06 GMT
    Josephine Ramos is literally sick about the toxic black mold growing in the St. Petersburg condominium beside hers. She's been feeling ill for months with headaches and breathing problems. Recently, she had peak inside the condo next doors and couldn't believe her eyes.
    Josephine Ramos is literally sick about the toxic black mold growing in the St. Petersburg condominium beside hers. She's been feeling ill for months with headaches and breathing problems. Recently, she had peak inside the condo next doors and couldn't believe her eyes.
  • NewsMore>>

  • Tampa daycare set to reopen after crash

    Tampa daycare set to reopen after crash

    Tuesday, September 2 2014 3:44 AM EDT2014-09-02 07:44:21 GMT
    A Tampa kindergarten and daycare center is set to reopen four days after a suspected drunk driver crashed through the wall into a classroom.
    A Tampa kindergarten and daycare center is set to reopen four days after a suspected drunk driver crashed through the wall into a classroom.
  • Pasco County couple survive a week adrift at sea

    Pasco County couple survive a week adrift at sea

    Tuesday, September 2 2014 3:36 AM EDT2014-09-02 07:36:06 GMT
    A Pasco county couple is recovering after spending a week adrift in the Gulf of Mexico. They were trapped 80 miles off shore without any food and very little water for seven days.
    A Pasco county couple is recovering after spending a week adrift in the Gulf of Mexico. They were trapped 80 miles off shore without any food and very little water for seven days.
  • Palm Harbor strip club hit & run victim makes plea

    Palm Harbor strip club hit & run victim makes plea

    Monday, September 1 2014 9:33 PM EDT2014-09-02 01:33:46 GMT
    New video shows the violent incident early Friday morning, outside "Silks" strip club on US 19 in Palm Harbor. Bouncer Doug Berube and the club DJ. wanted to talk to a guy in a car about an earlier incident. The driver shoved it in reverse, hit the gas, and backed over Berube. He has a plea for the driver....
    New video shows the violent incident early Friday morning, outside "Silks" strip club on US 19 in Palm Harbor. Bouncer Doug Berube and the club DJ. wanted to talk to a guy in a car about an earlier incident. The driver shoved it in reverse, hit the gas, and backed over Berube. He has a plea for the driver....
  • Sign up for WFLA News Channel 8 Email Alerts

    * denotes required fields






    Thank you for signing up! You will receive a confirmation email shortly.
  • Most Popular StoriesMost Popular StoriesMore>>

  • Teen accused of killing, dismembering mother's body

    Teen accused of killing, dismembering mother's body

    Monday, September 1 2014 6:48 PM EDT2014-09-01 22:48:37 GMT
    Tyrese LandrumTyrese Landrum
    A Lee County teenager is behind bars, accused of killing his own mother and hiding her body parts around the home.
    A Lee County teenager is behind bars, accused of killing his own mother and hiding her body parts around the home.
  • Clueless swimmers have near-miss with shark off Florida beach

    Clueless swimmers have near-miss with shark off Florida beach

    Monday, September 1 2014 12:45 PM EDT2014-09-01 16:45:15 GMT
    YouTube/User Scott McCainYouTube/User Scott McCain
    Beach-goers in Destin, Florida had a near-miss with a hungry hammerhead shark.
    Beach-goers in Destin, Florida had a near-miss with a hungry hammerhead shark.
  • Teens hurt after falling from carnival ride

    Teens hurt after falling from carnival ride

    Monday, September 1 2014 6:46 AM EDT2014-09-01 10:46:21 GMT
    Teens hurt after falling from carnival ride in Texas.Teens hurt after falling from carnival ride in Texas.
    Two teenagers were rushed to University Medical Center in serious condition, that according to emergency dispatchers, who said they fell more than 12 feet from a ride at Saint Anthony's Bazaar on Sunday night.It happened shortly past 10 p.m.Dispatchers said firefighters also requested a ladder to rescue somebody stranded on the ride. The Crimes Against Children unit is investigating. There was no immediate indication from police of why that unit is involved.
    Two teenagers were rushed to University Medical Center in serious condition, that according to emergency dispatchers, who said they fell more than 12 feet from a ride at Saint Anthony's Bazaar on Sunday night.It happened shortly past 10 p.m.Dispatchers said firefighters also requested a ladder to rescue somebody stranded on the ride. The Crimes Against Children unit is investigating. There was no immediate indication from police of why that unit is involved.
Powered by WorldNow

200 South Parker Street, Tampa, FL 33606

Telephone: 813.228.8888
Fax: 813.225.2770
Email: news@wfla.com

Can’t find something?
Powered by WorldNow
All content © Copyright 2000 - 2014 Media General Communications Holdings, LLC. A Media General Company.