July 20, 2024

Female suspect dead after child injured at Joel Osteen’s megachurch in Houston

The shooter has been neutralized, officials said during a news conference

One child has been shot after a shooting at megachurch pastor Joel Osteen’s Lakewood Church in Houston, Texas.

The child is believed to be around 5 and is in critical condition at Texas Children’s Hospital. A 57-year-old man was transported to another area hospital after he was shot in the leg but is in stable condition.

Officials said they fatally shot the female shooter, believed to be between the ages of 30-to-35, during a news conference outside the church.

Police said the woman showed up to the church with the child just before 2pm and entered the property on the west side. She was armed with a long rifle, a trench coat and backpack when she began to fire. Two off-duty officers engaged and struck the female at the scene.

At some point, the child was also hit but it’s unclear if he was shot by an officer or the woman.

“It could’ve been a lot worse,” Mr Osteen said during a news conference alongside Houston Mayor John Whitmire after the shooting. “We know God’s in control.”

Once the woman went down, officers said she threatened that she had a bomb but no explosives were found on site. However, the woman was spotted spraying a chemical, which was examined by Houston Fire Department officials. A hazmat team was also brought onto the scene.

Houston Police Chief Troy Finner said officials would continue searching the premises to ensure no one else had been hurt.

Still, police said they believed the shooting to be an isolated incident.

When asked if officers had shot the boy, Chief Finner said if they had, he’d “put that blame on her”. It’s unknown if the woman and child are related.

The shooting occurred as the church was transitioning into its Spanish-language service. According to local reports, witnesses believed that the shots came from the back of a performance stage as a worship band was playing.

Lakewood Church is one of the largest Christian churches in the US with a capacity to seat about 16,000 people. Mr Osteen, its lead pastor, is one of the US’ most notable religious leaders.

Mr Osteen continued his remarks by saying his congregation would be praying for the five-year-old boy and the female shooter.

“We’re going to stay strong,” he said. “We’re going to continue to move forward.”

In a statement, Texas Governor 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.”

He added he’s offered his full support to bring justice to the “criminal who committed this heinous act.”

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