The shooting incident at Joel Osteen's Lakewood Church in Houston, Texas, left one woman dead, a child critically injured, and a man wounded.
Fatal Shooting at Joel Osteen's Lakewood Church Leaves One Dead, Child Critically Injured
On Sunday at a megachurch in Houston, Texas, led by prominent evangelical Christian pastor Joel Osteen, the city's police chief stated that a woman with a rifle was fatally shot by two off-duty police officers, resulting in critical injuries to a child.
Troy Finner mentioned uncertainty regarding whether the five-year-old boy was injured by the officers who returned fire. The incident occurred when a woman wearing a trenchcoat entered Osteen's Lakewood church with the boy just before 2 pm and initiated gunfire.
The police chief reported that a 57-year-old man was also injured by gunfire. The child was in critical condition at a children’s hospital, while the man was stable at another hospital with a hip wound.
Houston’s channel3now.com stated that the woman entered the church alleging to have a bomb. However, Finner later confirmed that no explosives were discovered during the search of her vehicle and backpack.
Additionally, Channel 3 Now reported that a second adult, a man carrying a rifle, was later seen avoiding authorities near restaurants close to the church.
Finner stated that both off-duty officers engaged the woman after she began shooting, resulting in her death. He mentioned that unfortunately, a five-year-old child was injured, but did not provide immediate details on the confrontation.
He commended the officers for swiftly confronting the woman, emphasizing, "She had a long gun, and it could have been a lot worse."
The shooting occurred between services at the megachurch, which ranks as the third-largest in the US according to the Hartford Institute for Religion Research. Osteen's televised sermons reach approximately 100 countries.
Osteen's whereabouts at the time were unclear. However, he later joined police at a news conference, expressing that the church was "devastated." He acknowledged that the situation could have been much worse if it had happened during the larger 11 am service. He pledged prayers for the victims, the woman who committed the shooting, and their families.
"We will remain resilient and keep pressing forward," Osteen affirmed. "Though there are forces of evil, the forces aligned with God are ultimately stronger."
Initially, a Twitter post from Lakewood Church reported an "active situation involving shots fired" at the venue, which can accommodate nearly 17,000 congregants.
At 2:10 pm, local sheriff Ed Gonzalez stated that his office had received reports of possible shots fired at or around the church. Deputies from the Harris County Sheriff’s Office, who provide extra security detail at the church, were present, Gonzalez confirmed.
Around 15 minutes later, Gonzalez provided an update, indicating that it was believed a shooter was down after being shot by one of his office’s deputies.
Witnesses described hearing multiple shots fired as the church's 2 pm Spanish language service was about to begin.
One witness, speaking to Houston’s ABC 13 news station, shared that she heard shots being fired while in the choir room. "The whole church started praying and declaring Jesus's name," she recounted. "I thought: 'This might be the last time I get to pray, that I get to glorify the name of Jesus, so I’m going to do this.'"
Christina Rodriguez, who was present inside the church, recounted to Houston television station KTRK that she "started screaming 'There's a shooter, there's a shooter'." She and others hurried to the back of a library within the building, then sought refuge in a stairway until they received confirmation that it was safe to exit.
Alan Guity, a longtime church member whose family hails from Honduras, shared that he was resting inside the church's sanctuary before the 2 pm service, while his mother was working as an usher, when he heard the sound of gunshots.
"Boom, boom, boom, boom, and I yelled, 'Mom,'" he recounted.
The 35-year-old rushed to his mother, and they both lay flat on the floor, praying as the gunfire continued. They remained there for about five minutes until someone assured them it was safe to evacuate. Outside, Guity and his mother attempted to calm others by worshiping and singing in Spanish: "Move in me, move in me. Touch my mind and my heart. Move within me, Holy Spirit."
Guity, along with numerous other congregation members, waited on Sunday evening to return to their vehicles as police continued to search the building.
A video broadcast of the service circulated widely on social media, capturing the sounds of gunfire and the program host's stunned reaction.
Governor Greg Abbott of Texas expressed his condolences in a statement: "Our hearts are with those affected by today's tragic shooting and the entire Lakewood church community in Houston. Places of worship are sacred."
Osteen's Lakewood church is located in a complex formerly used for games by the Houston Rockets pro basketball team. The building was previously known as the Summit and then the Compaq Center.
Approximately 45,000 people attend Lakewood's various services each week.