A woman wearing a trenchcoat opened fire with a long gun inside celebrity pastor Joel Osteen’s megachurch in Texas on Sunday. The incident, which occurred just before the church’s 2 p.m. Spanish service, resulted in two off-duty officers confronting and killing the shooter. Among those injured were a 5-year-old boy in critical condition and a man in his 50s who sustained wounds.
The violence disrupted the Houston church’s routine as worshippers scrambled to find safety. The Lakewood Church, with a capacity of 16,000 people, was previously an arena for the NBA’s Houston Rockets. Details regarding the confrontation and the shooter’s identity or motive remain unclear, leaving authorities to piece together the events that transpired.
Houston Police Chief Troy Finner condemned the shooter for endangering the child’s life, emphasizing the severity of the situation. The critically injured boy was transported to a children’s hospital, while the wounded man was stable at a different hospital.
The shooting occurred between services at the megachurch, a place regularly attended by 45,000 people every week, making it one of the largest in the U.S. Joel Osteen, the church’s pastor, noted that the situation could have been more catastrophic if it had happened during the earlier, larger service.
Eyewitnesses recounted hearing multiple gunshots, prompting panic and chaos inside the church. Many sought refuge in various parts of the building until authorities declared it safe to evacuate.
Despite the harrowing experience, Finner commended the two off-duty officers for their swift response, stating that their actions prevented a potentially greater tragedy. Both officers, employed by the Houston Police Department and the Texas Alcoholic Beverage Commission, respectively, have been placed on administrative duty pending further investigation.
Following the shooting, the woman claimed to have a bomb, leading to an extensive search of her vehicle and belongings. However, no explosives were found. First responders continued to scour the megachurch for potential threats.
Joel Osteen expressed his congregation’s devastation and offered prayers for the victims, the shooter, and their families. He emphasized the church’s resilience in the face of adversity and reaffirmed its commitment to spreading hope and positivity.
Texas Governor Greg Abbott extended his condolences to those affected by the tragedy, acknowledging the sanctity of places of worship. Lakewood Church, under Joel Osteen’s leadership, has experienced significant growth, reaching millions through its upbeat style of Christian televangelism.