Child and man wounded, suspected shooter dead in incident at Joel Osteen’s Lakewood Church in Houston
Houston Police Chief Troy Finner said the shooter, a woman in her 30s, was fatally shot at the scene.
A child and a man were injured and a woman was killed after she opened fire at Joel Osteen’s Lakewood Church in Houston on Sunday, police said.
The woman entered the church, accompanied by a boy believed to be about 5 years old, and started shooting, Police Chief Troy Finner said at a news conference Sunday afternoon.
Two off-duty law enforcement officers who were at the church when shots were fired about 1:50 p.m. opened fire, and the woman was killed, Finner said.
The child was in critical condition, and a man, who is in his 50s, was being treated for an injury to his leg, Houston Fire Chief Samuel Peña said.
If law enforcement gunfire is responsible for striking the child, Finner said, “I’m going to put that blame on her” for putting the boy in danger.
The shooting happened between services as people were arriving for Spanish service, Osteen said.
Police believe that the shooting was an isolated incident and that there is no further danger to the public.
The woman had a long rifle and a backpack and was wearing a trench coat when she entered the church from a parking lot and started shooting, Finner said.
Her identity has not been released. Finner described her as being in her early 30s. Motive is part of the investigation.
The woman threatened that she had a bomb and sprayed an unknown substance as first responders arrived, Finner chief said. It was not clear what the substance was as fire department personnel arrived to investigate and clear the scene, he said.
Police checked a vehicle and a backpack for possible explosives, none of which have been reported.
The two officers who opened fire were off-duty. One is an agent with the Texas Alcoholic Beverage Commission, and the other is a Houston police officer, Finner said.
A livestream of the day’s scheduled events was interrupted by gunfire and went offline. Until then, the stream showed pastor Jorge Basave, speaking in Spanish from what appeared to be a lobby area of the church, giving the website for a coming Lakewood Church event.
Gunfire was heard, Basave paused and continued before another shot was heard, someone shrieked, and the feed was halted. Video of the livestream has been marked private.
Pictures and videos from outside the church showed police cars and emergency vehicles lining up.
The FBI’s and the federal Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives’ Houston offices were assisting police with the investigation, spokespeople for both agencies said.
Police said the scene is ongoing and active and asked people to avoid the area.
A woman named Maria who is from Colombia and witnessed the shooting said she heard the first shot fired about eight minutes before a church service started.
“After the second shot, everybody started running. I ran with my kids … my family,” she told NBC affiliate KPRC of Houston.
Then she heard eight more shots, she said. She and her family lay down on the floor until someone told them it was safe to leave the church.
She said she called her husband and father to say “I love you,” thinking it might be the last time. She said she never imagined she would be in something like this.
Cherami Fisher said she had exited a restroom as gunfire erupted and spotted Osteen in the same hallway she would use to exit the building.
“I had just gone into the bathroom, got out and heard the bam-bam,” said Fisher, who said she just moved to the region from Los Angeles.
Osteen said that he was “in a fog” after the violence and that he was keeping the injured in his prayers.
“We don’t understand why all these things happen,” he said at the news conference. “But we know God’s in control.”
Houston Mayor John Whitmire lamented that the violence took place while people were preparing to practice their faith and others were anticipating the Super Bowl.
“We find ourselves gathered here to respond to this tragedy,” he said.
In a statement Sunday, Texas Gov. Greg Abbott said, “Our hearts are with those impacted by today’s tragic shooting and the entire Lakewood Church community in Houston. Places of worship are sacred.”
Abbott said he has offered “full support and resources of the State of Texas” to Whitmire “to help this community and help bring swift justice to the criminal who committed this heinous act.”