Friday, December 15, 2017
Public safety

Pastor arrested in Polk before he could burn Korans

MULBERRY — Authorities arrested a Florida pastor Wednesday evening as he drove to a park to light nearly 3,000 Korans on fire to protest the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks.

Polk County deputies arrested Pastor Terry Jones, 61, and Associate Pastor Marvin Sapp Jr., 44, on felony charges of unlawful conveyance of fuel as they traveled in a pickup towing a barbecue-style grill filled with Korans soaked in kerosene.

Jones had said he was heading to a nearby park to burn 2,998 Korans — one for every victim of the terrorist attacks. Sheriff's officials said Jones was also charged with unlawful open-carry of a firearm and that Sapp faces a charge of having no valid registration for the trailer.

Jones is the pastor of a small evangelical Christian church. His past anti-Muslim actions have sparked violence in the Middle East and Afghanistan. The U.S. Central Command, based at Tampa's MacDill Air Force Base, this week urged him not to go through with Wednesday's event.

Spokesman Lt. Col. Chris Belcher said Army Gen. Lloyd Austin III, CentCom's commander, called Jones on Monday.

"He relayed to Mr. Jones he was very concerned such activities were disrespectful to Muslims and needlessly put innocent civilians and U.S. military members in the CenCom area of responsibility at great risk," Belcher said.

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