Polk deputies arrest pastor who planned to burn Qurans - WSPA.com

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."

  • Sign up for WFLA News Channel 8 Email Alerts

    * denotes required fields






    Thank you for signing up! You will receive a confirmation email shortly.
  • Top StoriesTop StoriesMore>>

  • Self Regional Laptop With Patient Info Stolen

    Self Regional Laptop With Patient Info Stolen

    Friday, July 25 2014 1:43 PM EDT2014-07-25 17:43:24 GMT
    Photo courtesy Self Regional HealthcarePhoto courtesy Self Regional Healthcare
    Self Regional Healthcare in Greenwood reports a hospital laptop was stolen two months ago and is now warning patients their personal information may be at risk.
    Self Regional Healthcare in Greenwood reports a hospital laptop was stolen two months ago and is now warning patients their personal information may be at risk.
  • Greenville Rally Against Hatred Scheduled In Response To KKK

    Greenville Rally Against Hatred Scheduled In Response To KKK

    Friday, July 25 2014 11:16 AM EDT2014-07-25 15:16:29 GMT
    Greenville will host its first ever Unity Rally Against Hatred on July 26th.Greenville will host its first ever Unity Rally Against Hatred on July 26th.
    The first Unity Rally Against Hatred will be held at the Hughes Main Library in Greenville on July 26th to address the motives of the KKK.
    The first Unity Rally Against Hatred will be held at the Hughes Main Library in Greenville on July 26th to address the motives of the KKK.
  • Train Derailment Causes Ethanol Cars To Flip Over In Spartanburg

    Train Derailment Causes Ethanol Cars To Flip Over In Spartanburg

    Friday, July 25 2014 7:11 AM EDT2014-07-25 11:11:28 GMT
    Police, Fire, and Hazmat Officials in Spartanburg are at the scene of a train derailment involving cars carrying ethanol that happened near Daniel Morgan Avenue early on July 25th.
    Police, Fire, and Hazmat Officials in Spartanburg are at the scene of a train derailment involving cars carrying ethanol that happened near Daniel Morgan Avenue early on July 25th.
Powered by WorldNow

250 International Dr.
Spartanburg, S.C. 29303

Telephone: 864.576.7777
Fax: 864.587.5430
Email: webmaster@wspa.com

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