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.