Two off-duty law enforcement officers in Houston took down a woman who opened fire on Sunday at Lakewood Church, one of the largest evangelical churches in the US led by Pastor Joel Osteen, police said.
A woman in her early 30s entered the megachurch shortly before 2 p.m. local time (2000 GMT), armed with a long rifle and accompanied by a child around 5 years old, and began firing, Houston Police Chief Troy Finner told reporters on Sunday.
Two off-duty officers, one a Texas Alcoholic Beverage Commission agent and the other a Houston police officer, killed the shooter before she could kill anyone inside the church, which was preparing to host a Spanish-language service, Finner said.
Two people were injured, including the child who was with the shooter, Finner said. Officials said they were working to understand the child’s relation to the shooter and the shooter’s motive. Finner said he was not sure yet who shot the child in the crossfire.
The child was taken to Texas Children’s Hospital and was in critical condition, officials said. A man in his fifties sustained a non-critical leg injury and was also being treated at a local hospital.
“She had a long gun, and it could have been a lot worse,” Finner said.
The woman had threatened that she had a bomb, prompting authorities to search her backpack and vehicle, Finner said. They found no explosives.
Lakewood Church, which seats around 16,000 people, is led by Osteen and his wife and co-pastor Victoria Osteen.
Joel Osteen is one of the most popular pastors in the United States. Osteen’s media broadcasts, podcasts, books and radio programming reach millions of US households and audiences worldwide.
“We don’t understand why these things happen, but God’s in control,” Osteen told reporters on Sunday. “We’re going to stay strong. We’re going to continue to move forward.”
The Houston church, located in the former sports arena for the Houston Rockets of the National Basketball Association, accommodates over 40,000 worshipers over a weekend.
“Our hearts are with those impacted by today’s tragic shooting and the entire Lakewood Church community in Houston,” Texas Governor Greg Abbott said in a statement.