Off-duty police arrest a shooter at Joel Osteen’s megachurch in Houston

(Reuters) – Two off-duty law enforcement officers in Houston arrested a woman who opened fire on Sunday at Lakewood Church, one of the largest evangelical churches in the United States led by a televangelist. Joel OsteenThe police said.

Houston Police Chief Troy Fenner told reporters on Sunday that a woman in her early 30s entered the megachurch shortly before 2 p.m. local time (2000 GMT), armed with a long rifle and accompanied by a child about five years old, and began shooting.

Two off-duty officers, one an agent with the Texas Alcoholic Beverage Commission and the other a Houston police officer, killed the shooter before she could kill anyone inside the church, which was preparing to host a Spanish-language mass, Fenner said.

Two people were injured, including the child who was with the shooter, Fenner said. Officials said they are working to understand the child’s relationship with the shooter and the shooter’s motives. Fenner said he is not yet sure who shot the child during the shootout.

The child was taken to Texas Children’s Hospital in critical condition, officials said. A man in his 50s suffered a non-serious leg injury and is receiving treatment at a local hospital.

“She had a long gun, and it could have been a lot worse,” Fenner said.

The woman threatened to have a bomb, prompting authorities to search her purse and car, Fenner said. They did not find any explosives.

Most mass shootings in the United States are carried out by men, making Houston’s apparent attempt a rare case. The US Secret Service’s National Threat Assessment Center (NTAC), which studies all forms of targeted violence including mass casualty attacks, found in a 2023 report that 96% of mass attackers from 2016 to 2020 were male. .

“Our thoughts are with those affected by today’s tragic shooting and the entire Lakewood Church community in Houston,” Texas Governor Greg Abbott said in a statement.

Lakewood Church, which seats about 16,000 people, is led by Osteen, his wife and co-pastor Victoria Austin.

Joel Osteen is one of the richest and most popular pastors and gospel preachers in the United States. According to the church’s website, Osteen’s media programs, podcasts, and radio programs reach millions of American families and audiences around the world.

“We don’t understand why these things happen, but God is in control,” Osteen told reporters on Sunday. “We’ll stay strong. We’ll keep moving forward.”

Located in the former sports arena of the National Basketball Association’s Houston Rockets, the Houston Church can accommodate more than 40,000 worshipers during the weekend.

(Reporting by Gabriella Porter in Washington; Editing by Lisa Shoemaker)

(Tags for translation)Joel Osteen

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