Central Florida’s best known evangelical pastor was arrested Wednesday on his way to a park where he’d planned a Quran-burning ceremony to mark the 9/11 attacks.
And the local sheriff said he was asking for it.
Terry Jones, pastor of the Dove World Outreach Center in Gainesville, was driving a pickup truck towing a grill filled with Qurans he’d soaked with kerosene in a McDonald’s parking lot when he was pulled over about 5 p.m., according to the Lakeland Ledger.
There were more bottles of kerosene in the pickup, the Ledger reported.
Jones, 61, along with Associate Pastor Marvin Sapp Jr., 44, faces a charge of “unlawful conveyance of fuel,” which sounds awkward, but is pretty straightforward: Driving a stack of Qurans you soaked with kerosene in a McDonald’s parking lot is no way to transport fuel.
“The unlawful conveyance of fuel charge stems from Jones and Sapp dousing and emptying kerosene into a smoker/trailer onto a stack of Qurans and then dangerously transporting the trailer onto a state road,” the Polk County Sheriff’s Office stated in a news release.
The Ledger also reported Jones was charged with openly carrying a firearm, a .40-caliber Smith and Wesson semi-automatic pistol. (Open carry is generally prohibited in Florida, according to opencarrry.org.)
According to the Ledger, Polk County officials denied Jones a permit to stage his Koran-burning ceremony in a public park near Mulberry because his application was late and no burning is allowed in the park. The Ledger said Jones had been warned he would be arrested if he went to the park with equipment to start a fire.
In a news conference Wednesday, Polk County Sheriff Grady Judd accused Jones of forcing his own arrest just for publicity.
“This was like the slow pitch for him,” Judd said. “We told him, ‘You can’t burn. It’s illegal.’ And he was going to come here and burn anyway.”
“His actions were so overt and so obvious, I believe he wanted to be arrested,” Judd said. “And one thing is for sure, if he wanted to be arrested, and he violated the law in this county, this is the county he can plan to be arrested in.”
Jones and Sapp were booked into the Polk County jail, the Ledger reported. Their bail status was unavailable Thursday morning.
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