BEVERLY HILLS, Fla. (WFLA) — Deputies in Citrus County took a Beverly Hills man into custody who they say set church property on fire Friday morning.
Deputies were initially called to Our Lady of Grace Catholic Church in Beverly Hills regarding a brush fire at around 7 a.m., but after arriving, a witness told first responders that a man ran in toward the church and poured liquid out of a gasoline can on a statue of Jesus and a tree before setting them both on fire.
The Citrus County Sheriff’s Office said surveillance video taken from the church’s cameras showed the man also trying to light the propane tanks on fire next to the church.
However, the arsons didn’t stop there as first responders were called to two other property fires at homes in Beverly Hills.
One homeowner on South Barbour Street told deputies that their fence was set on fire. According to the CCSO, a liquid believed to be gasoline was poured on the house’s front door and windows.
A home on South Wadsworth was also set on fire and suffered heavy damage, but no one was inside at the time according to deputies.
After reviewing the surveillance video, CCSO detectives identified the arson suspect as James Lee Harris, 25, of Beverly Hills.
The sheriff’s office said Harris was taken into custody around 10 p.m. and confessed to the fires after being read his rights.
“Not only is arson dangerous, but in some cases can be deadly,” Sheriff Mike Prendergast said. “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.”
As of this report, Harris is behind bars on one count of arson to a dwelling, one count of misdemeanor criminal mischief, one felony count of arson to a church, and one count misdemeanor of criminal mischief to a church.