Child among 2 shot at Joel Osteen's Lakewood Church in Texas; armed female suspect dead: officials

ByTom Abrahams, Shannon Ryan, Jiovanni Lieggi KTRK logo
Monday, February 12, 2024
Child among 2 shot at Texas megachurch; suspect dead: officials
A child was among two people injured in a Lakewood Church shooting in Houston, Texas, officials said. An armed females suspect is dead.

HOUSTON -- Off-duty officers responded as a woman began shooting inside pastor Joel Osteen's Lakewood Church in Texas on Sunday, killing the suspect, Houston Police Chief Troy Finner said at a news conference.

A child was left in critical condition following the incident and a 57-year-old man was also shot in the leg, Finner said.

Finner said the woman, between the ages of 30 and 35 years old, entered Houston's Lakewood Church on the west side at approximately 1:53 p.m. local time. Officials said the woman, armed with a long rifle, was wearing a trenchcoat and a backpack. She was accompanied by a 5-year-old boy.

"Both officers ... engaged, striking the female," Finner said. "She's deceased here on the scene. Unfortunately, a 5-year-old kid was hit and is in critical condition at our local hospital."

Finner said the 5-year-old was also shot and was transported to a local hospital in critical condition. When asked if police shot the child, Finner said he didn't know but added, "If it was, unfortunately, and that female, that suspect, put that baby in danger, I'm gonna put that blame on her."

A 57-year-old man, who Finner said is not believed to be involved in the incident, was shot in the leg and transported to the hospital in stable condition, he said.

The female suspect claimed to have a bomb, but no explosives were found by officers, the chief told the media.

"She had a long gun and it could've been a lot worse," Finner said during the press conference.

Pastor Joel Osteen spoke during the press conference as well, noting the incident took place in between services at the megachurch.

"I can only imagine what would have happened if this happened during the 11:00 service," Osteen said. "She could have done much worse damage."

Earlier, Harris County Sheriff Ed Gonzalez said some Harris County deputies also work at the church as a part-time job.

The church, which has an average attendance of 45,000 people, was in the middle of a live stream service when shots could be heard going off in the background.

The Sunday afternoon shooting was reported while a Spanish language service was underway.

A witness told our sister station, ABC13 Eyewitness News in Houston, that she heard several shots being fired while in the choir room.

"The whole church started praying and declaring Jesus' name," she said. "I was like, '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.'"

ABC13 crews were at the church where crowds of people, including children, could be seen evacuating the worship center.

Churchgoers are being told to go to Lifetime Fitness at 1 Healthy Way in the Greenway Plaza area to reunite with families after several were separated amid the havoc.

Video shared with Eyewitness News shows a perspective from inside the church when rapid gunfire can be heard, and people begin to scurry.

Lakewood Church, which has an average attendance of 45,000 people, was in the middle of a live stream service when shots could be heard going off in the background.

There's no word on a motive for the attack.

Joel Osteen released the following statement:

"Our community is devastated by today's events and grateful for the swift actions of law enforcement. 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. 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. Please join me in continued prayer for healing and peace."

Texas Gov. Greg Abbott released the following statement:

"Our hearts are with those impacted by today's tragic shooting and the entire Lakewood Church community in Houston. Places of worship are sacred. I have been in contact with Mayor Whitmire and offered the full support and resources of the State of Texas, including Department of Public Safety officers and Texas Rangers, to help this community and help bring swift justice to the criminal who committed this heinous act. Join Cecilia and me in praying for this community during this difficult time and for the brave men and women in blue who acted quickly to respond to this tragedy."

ABC News contributed to this report.