Sunday, a woman clad in a trenchcoat stormed the Texas megachurch of famous preacher Joel Osteen with a long gun, causing congregants to flee for cover as two off-duty policemen engaged and fatally shot the gunman. In addition to the two wounded, a critically ill 5-year-old son was among the two others shot.
Just before the 2 p.m. service at the Houston church, the violence broke out. As the nation got ready for the Super Bowl, Spanish service was about to start. Together with the young man who would later suffer injuries in the gunfight with law enforcement, the woman went into the massive Lakewood Church, which had formerly served as the Houston Rockets’ arena and could hold 16,000 people.
Also injured was a man in his fifties. In the hours following the tragedy, details of the altercation are still unclear, and neither the woman’s identity nor a probable motivation have been revealed by the authorities. Who fired the shots that killed the man and the boy, as well as the nature of the woman’s relationship with the boy, remains a mystery.
“I will say this,” Houston Police Chief Troy Finner told reporters outside the church at a press conference. The culprit, who was a woman, endangered the life of that infant. She will be the one I hold responsible. A children’s hospital was treating the boy’s severe condition, while another hospital was stabilizing the man’s hip wound.
According to the Hartford Institute for Religion Research, the megachurch was the third biggest in the United States, with an average weekly attendance of 45,000 people, when the shooting occurred in the middle of a service. If the violence had occurred during the earlier, larger 11 a.m. session, according to Osteen, it could have been even worse.
Multiple gunshots were reported by eyewitnesses to the incident. Houston television station KTRK interviewed Christina Rodriguez, who was inside the church, and she said that she “started screaming, ‘There’s a shooter, there’s a shooter.'” After that, she and others fled to the building’s backside, where they stood in a staircase until they were told it was safe to leave.
Heard gunshots while relaxing inside the church’s sanctuary before the Spanish service, according to longtime member Alan Guity, whose family is from Honduras. His mother was working as an usher. He informed The Associated Press that he shouted “Mom” after hearing a series of loud noises.
As the gunshots rang out, the 35-year-old hurried to his mother, who they joined in praying while they lay flat on the floor. For the next five minutes, they waited for word that it was safe to leave. While outside, Guity and his mother sang “Move in me, move in me” in an effort to bring peace to the crowd, according to Guity.
Move my spirit and my intellect. Holy Spirit, have your way within me. The tragedy “could have been a lot worse” if the two policemen had not “engaged” the woman when she began to fire, according to Finner, who expressed his concern despite the chaos. On Sunday, they were manning the church’s security, and Finner lauded their agility and promptness.
Officers from the Texas Alcoholic Beverage Commission and the Houston Police Department, respectively, are involved. Administrative duties as stipulated by protocol have been assigned to both. The woman claimed to have a bomb on her person after being shot, but when her car and rucksack were checked, officers stated they did not find any explosives.
For hours afterward, rescue workers persisted in searching the megachurch. His congregation is “devastated,” Osteen declared on Sunday. He continued by saying that he would keep the victims, the shooter’s family, and the community in his prayers. Where he was when the gunshots were fired is an open question.
He assured the press that they would remain resolute and keep moving ahead during the joint press conference with the police. Powers are working against us, but the forces working in our favor, the forces of God, are greater. So, we’re going to keep going strong and simply do what God has asked us to do: inspire hope and boost people up.
In a statement, Governor Greg Abbott of Texas expressed his deepest sympathies with the victims of the horrible incident in Houston and the entire Lakewood Church community. Every house of worship is holy.
Following his father’s death in 1999, Joel Osteen assumed leadership of the church and brought an energetic style of Christian televangelism that attracted millions of followers, leading to remarkable growth over the previous quarter of a century. About 100 countries hear his broadcasted sermons. In 1959, the congregation was established in a converted feed store by the elder Osteen.
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