HOUSTON — 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.

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.


Associated Press

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