NATIONAL NEWS

Woman killed after she opened fire in Joel Osteen’s megachurch, boy with her shot, hospitalized

Feb 11, 2024, 1:25 PM | Updated: 10:06 pm

HOUSTON (AP) — A woman in a trenchcoat opened fire with a long gun Sunday inside celebrity pastor Joel Osteen’s megachurch in Texas, sending worshippers rushing to find safety while two off-duty officers confronted and killed the shooter. Two other people were shot and injured, including a 5-year-old boy who was in critical condition.

The violence erupted shortly before the Houston church’s 2 p.m. Spanish service was set to begin, just as the rest of the country was preparing for the Super Bowl. The woman entered the enormous Lakewood Church – a building with a 16,000-person capacity that was previously an arena for the NBA’s Houston Rockets — with the boy who was later hurt in the shootout with police. A man in his 50s was also wounded.

Details of the confrontation remain unclear in the hours after the tragedy, and police have not released the woman’s identity or a possible motive. It’s also unknown what relationship, if any, the woman had to the boy, and who actually shot him and the man.

“I will say this,” Houston Police Chief Troy Finner told reporters during a news conference outside the church. “That female, that suspect, put that baby in danger. I’m going to put that blame on her.”

The boy was in critical condition at a children’s hospital, while the man was stable at a different hospital with a hip wound.

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 said the violence could have been much worse if it had happened during the earlier, larger 11 a.m. service.

Witnesses told reporters that they heard multiple gunshots. 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.

Longtime church member Alan Guity, whose family is from Honduras, said he was resting inside the church’s sanctuary before the Spanish service as his mother was working as an usher when he heard gunshots.

“Boom, boom, boom, boom and I yelled, ‘Mom,’ ” he told The Associated Press.

The 35-year-old ran to his mother and they both laid flat on the floor and prayed as the gunfire continued. They remained there for about five minutes until someone told them it was safe to evacuate. Outside, Guity said, he and his mother tried to calm people down by worshiping and singing in Spanish, “Move in me, move in me. Touch my mind and my heart. Move within me Holy Spirit.”

Despite the chaos, Finner said the tragedy “could have been a lot worse” if the two officers had not “engaged” the woman when she opened fire. They had been working security at the church on Sunday, and Finner praised them for their quick actions.

The officers work for the Houston Police Department and the Texas Alcoholic Beverage Commission, respectively. Both have been placed on protocol-mandated administrative duty.

After she was shot, the woman told police that she had a bomb, but authorities said no explosives were found when her vehicle and backpack were searched. First responders continued to search the megachurch for hours afterwards.

Osteen said Sunday that his congregation is “devastated.” He added that he would pray for the victims and for the woman who did the shooting and their families. It was not clear where he was at the time of the shooting.

“We’re going to stay strong and we’re going to continue to, to move forward,” he said during the news conference with police. “There are forces of evil, but the forces that are for us — the forces of God — are stronger than that. So we’re going to keep going strong and just, you know, doing what God’s called us to do: lift people up and give hope to the world.”

Texas Gov. Greg Abbott issued a statement saying “our hearts are with those impacted by today’s tragic shooting and the entire Lakewood Church community in Houston. Places of worship are sacred.”

The church has grown tremendously over the past 25 years since Joel Osteen took over after his father’s death in 1999 and introduced an upbeat style of Christian televangelism that has captured a following of millions. His televised sermons reach about 100 countries. The elder Osteen founded the church in a converted feed store in 1959.

National News

Associated Press

A shooting in Orlando has left at least 1 person dead and several injured, police say

ORLANDO (AP) — At least one person is dead and several others were injured Wednesday night following a shooting in Orlando, Florida, police say. At approximately 11:00 p.m. Orlando Police officers responded to the area of Iron Wedge Drive and South Lake Orlando in reference to several shots fired, WFTV reported. Upon arrival, officers located […]

2 hours ago

FILE - A map of a new proposed community in Solano County, Calif., is displayed during a news confe...

Associated Press

A billionaire-backed campaign for a new California city is off to a bumpy start

SAN FRANCISCO (AP) — After two false starts, the billionaires behind a plan to build an eco-friendly city from scratch are behind schedule and off to a bumpy start to put their proposal before California voters this November. Former Goldman Sachs trader Jan Sramek unveiled his closely guarded ballot initiative for the proposed community between […]

3 hours ago

FILE - Nevada Secretary of State Cisco Aguilar speaks before Gov. Joe Lombardo signs an election wo...

Associated Press

Nevada and other swing states need more poll workers. Can lawyers help fill the gap?

RENO, Nev. (AP) — With Nevada counties struggling to find poll workers in a pivotal election year, the top election official in the Western swing state is taking a page from his counterparts elsewhere and is asking the legal community to help fill the gap. Secretary of State Cisco Aguilar wants lawyers who volunteer at […]

4 hours ago

FILE - This combo image shows President Joe Biden, left, Jan. 5, 2024, and Republican presidential ...

Associated Press

What is Super Tuesday? Why it matters and what to watch

The biggest day of this year’s primary campaign is approaching as 15 states — plus American Samoa — vote in contests known as Super Tuesday. The elections are a crucial moment for President Joe Biden and former President Donald Trump, who are the overwhelming front-runners for the Democratic and Republican presidential nominations. As the day […]

4 hours ago

Associated Press

Firefighters seek to corral massive Texas wildfires before weekend of higher temperatures and winds

CANADIAN, Texas (AP) — The explosive growth of the second-largest wildfire in Texas history slowed as winds and temperatures dipped but the massive blaze was still untamed and threatening more death and destruction. The Smokehouse Fire is the largest of several major fires burning in the rural Panhandle section of the state. It has charred […]

4 hours ago

FILE - Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin speaks during a Pentagon press briefing at the Pentagon on Fe...

Associated Press

Defense chief on the defensive: Lawmakers to confront Austin on secret hospital stay

WASHINGTON (AP) — Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin will face Congress publicly for the first time Thursday to explain his failure to quickly notify the president and other senior leaders about his hospitalization last month for complications from prostate cancer surgery. He is expected to hear some sharp questions and criticism from members of the House […]

5 hours ago

Woman killed after she opened fire in Joel Osteen’s megachurch, boy with her shot, hospitalized