Woman in trench coat opens fire in church run by celebrity priest

US

A woman wearing a trench coat was shot dead by two off-duty police officers after she opened fire inside a Texas church run by celebrity priest Joel Osteen.

Worshippers at the Lakewood megachurch in Houston ran to find safety after the violence began shortly before a 2pm Spanish service on Sunday.

Two people were injured in the shooting, including a five-year-old boy, who remains in a critical condition, and a 57-year-old man, who is in a stable condition and being treated for a hip injury.

The woman was shot by two officers from the Houston Police Department and the Texas Alcoholic Beverage Commission, who were working as security at the church.

She had told police that she had a bomb, but authorities said no explosives were found during searches of her vehicle and backpack.

In this screen grab taken from video provided by KTRK-TV ABC13, pastor Joel Osteen speaks to the media after a shooting at Lakewood Church, in Houston, Sunday, Feb. 11, 2024. (KTRK-TV ABC13 via AP)
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The church is run by Joel Osteen who said the community was ‘devastated’. Pic: KTRK-TV ABC13 via AP

It is believed the child was with the suspect, but police are yet to determine if the two were related, or identify a possible motive.

Troy Finner, police chief, said the incident “could have been a lot worse” if the two officers had not “engaged” the woman when she opened fire.

A woman stands outside Lakewood Church, in Houston, after a reported shooting during a Spanish church service, Sunday, Feb. 11, 2024. (Karen Warren/Houston Chronicle via AP)
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Lakewood is attended by 45,000 people every week. Pic: AP

“That female, that suspect, put that baby in danger. I’m going to put that blame on her,” he said.

Church member Alan Guity, 35, said he was resting inside the building when he heard gunshots. He said he laid with his mother on the floor and prayed until the gunshots had finished.

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Emergency vehicles line the feeder road outside Lakewood Church during a reported active shooter event, Sunday, Feb. 11, 2024, in Houston. (Kirk Sides/Houston Chronicle via AP)
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The shooting began before a 2pm service on Sunday. Pic: AP

Lakewood church is the third-largest in the US, with a maximum capacity of 16,000, and is regularly attended by 45,000 people every week, according to the Hartford Institute for Religion Research.

It is led by Osteen, one of the wealthiest and most popular pastors and prosperity gospel preachers in the US, whose televised sermons reach around 100 countries.

“Our community is devastated by today’s events and grateful for the swift actions of law enforcement,” Osteen wrote in a statement on X. “May the healing hands of God touch the lives of everyone involved and provide comfort during this difficult time.

“In times like these, our faith is tested, but it is also strengthened. We don’t always understand why things like this happen, but we know that God is in control.”

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