HOUSTON, TX - The female shooter who opened fire Sunday afternoon at pastor Joel Osteen’s Lakewood Church in Houston, which has one of the nation’s largest congregations, was killed by officers returning fire.
According to the Houston Police Department, the woman was fatally shot by off-duty officers. No one else at the church died.
The woman, between the ages of 30 and 35, entered the church at 1:53 p.m. wearing a trench coat and a backpack and carrying a long rifle, Houston police Chief Troy Finner said during a Sunday press conference after the shooting. A young child, who police said was approximately 4 to 5 years old, accompanied her.
The woman began shooting upon entering the church. Two off-duty officers shot the female shooter, who died on the scene, according to authorities. The child was also shot and is in critical condition at Texas Children’s Hospital, but officers were unclear about how the child was injured. Another 57-year-old man — unassociated with the shooter — was shot in the leg and is being treated.
The shooter threatened that she had a bomb, so officers searched her vehicle and backpack but did not recover any explosives, police said.
They continued a search of the church, which seats more than 16,000 people, on Sunday afternoon.
Officers also said the shooter was spraying an unidentifiable substance, prompting officers to call upon the Houston Fire Department and hazmat units.
“Nothing of concern” was found.
Law enforcement did not identify the shooter’s motive or her identity. She entered the church minutes before the start of the 2 p.m. Spanish-language service.
“It’s unfortunate that on the day we want to attend church and watch America’s No. 1 sports event, we find ourselves gathered here to respond to this tragedy,” Houston Mayor John Whitmire said during the press conference. “We want Houstonians to know they are being protected by their first responders.”
Lakewood Church is about 6 miles outside of downtown Houston.
The nondenominational, evangelical Christian church attracts people from across the country, both in person and online.
“Our community is devastated by today’s events and grateful for the swift actions of law enforcement,” Lakewood Church stated on X. “May the healing hands of God touch the lives of everyone involved and provide comfort during this difficult time. In the face of such darkness, we must hold onto our faith and remember evil will not prevail.
“God will guide us through the darkest of times,” the church stated. “Together, we will rise above this tragedy and stand firm in our commitment to love and support one another. In times like these, our faith is tested, but it is also strengthened. We don’t always understand why things like this happen, but we know that God is in control.”