Woman Firing Rifle Killed By 2 Off-Duty Officers At Joel Osteen's Church, 2 Others Hurt, Police Say

About 45,000 people attend weekly services at Lakewood, making it the third largest megachurch in the U.S., according to the Hartford Institute for Religion Research.
Lakewood Church in Houston prepares to receive victims of Tropical Storm Harvey, Tuesday, Aug. 29, 2017, in Houston. Volunteers are helping receiving donations from people driving by dropping first need items.
Lakewood Church in Houston prepares to receive victims of Tropical Storm Harvey, Tuesday, Aug. 29, 2017, in Houston. Volunteers are helping receiving donations from people driving by dropping first need items.
Houston Chronicle/Hearst Newspapers via Getty Images via Getty Images

HOUSTON (AP) — A woman in a trenchoat entered the Houston megachurch of celebrity pastor Joel Osteen and started shooting Sunday afternoon and was killed by two off-duty officers working security, police said. They added a young child with the woman was critically hurt and another man nearby was wounded.

Houston Police Chief Troy Finner said the woman entered the church with a long gun and a backpack shortly before 2 p.m. on Sunday, accompanied by a child about 4 or 5 years old. He said the child was in critical condition after being taken to a hospital.

The shooting happened between services at the megachurch that is regularly attended by 45,000 people every week, making it the third largest megachurch in the U.S., according to the Hartford Institute for Religion Research. Osteen’s televised sermons reach about 100 countries.

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.”

“She had a long gun, and it could have been a lot worse,” Finner said at the news conference.

Osteen said the shooting could have been much worse if it had happened during the larger 11 a.m. service.

“We’re devastated,” he said, adding he would pray for the victims and their families.

THIS IS A BREAKING NEWS UPDATE. AP’s earlier story follows below.

HOUSTON (AP) — A Texas sheriff said Sunday that a shooter was down after a shooting at the Houston megachurch of celebrity pastor Joel Osteen on Sunday afternoon.

Harris County Sheriff Ed Gonzalez did not immediately provide more details in his post on X, the platform formerly known as Twitter. Lakewood Church had earlier posted on social media there was an “active situation involving shots fired” at one of the largest megachurches in the U.S during its typically busy Sunday services.

A news conference was scheduled for later by police and other law enforcement agencies. A heavy presence of police surrounded the Houston megachurch.

Worshippers could be seen leaving the building as authorities evacuated the church, and authorities said they were continuing to methodically search the building as a precaution. About 45,000 people attend weekly services at Lakewood, making it the third largest megachurch in the U.S., according to the Hartford Institute for Religion Research. Osteen’s televised sermons reach about 100 countries.

Earlier, Lakewood Church posted on X, formerly known as Twitter, shortly afterrward that there was an “active situation involving shots fired” at the church.

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.”

Witnesses told reporters that they heard multiple gunshots about the time the church’s 2 p.m. Spanish language service was set to begin.

Christina Rodriguez, who was inside the church, told Houston television station KTRK that she “started screaming, ‘There’s a shooter, there’s a shooter,’” and then she and others ran to the backside of a library inside the building, then stood in a stairway before they were told it was safe to leave.

People stood outside the building as authorities evacuated the church. Officials later announced a reunification center had been set up at a nearby gym for people to find their loved ones.

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