Panic struck the heart of Houston yesterday when a woman wielding a rifle opened fire at Lakewood Church, the sprawling Texas megachurch led by high-profile pastor Joel Osteen. The violence erupted just before 2 p.m., punctuating the air with gunshots as worshippers were set to enjoy the Super Bowl later that day.
The shooting, reported by NBCDFW, detailed how the suspect, described as a woman in her 30s, came into the church dressed in a trench coat with a young boy by her side and a backpack, igniting terror among the congregation. Two off-duty law enforcement officers, one a Houston police officer and the other an agent with the Texas Alcoholic Beverage Commission, shot the woman dead, responding quickly to the threat.
During the chaos, a five-year-old boy was critically wounded and rushed to a local children's hospital, while a man in his 50s was shot in the hip. Houston Police Chief Troy Finner refused to speculate on the child's shooter but held the suspect responsible for endangering the boy, telling reporters, "That female, that suspect, put that baby in danger. I’m going to put that blame on her."
The woman also claimed there was a bomb after she was shot, triggering a search that ultimately found no explosives. As reported by Atlanta News First, Atlanta's Pastor Bryan Meadows of Embassy City Church expressed solidarity, stating, "We are praying for Osteen. We are praying for Lakewood and the communities and families affected." He emphasized the need for safety in places of worship and is considering extra security measures for his church in light of the recent violence.
The aftermath of the shooting has left many seeking answers about the woman's motives and reignited discussions on security in houses of worship. Osteen, known for his prosperity gospel teachings and a weekly congregation of 45,000 members, said the incident could have been significantly worse had it occurred during the earlier, larger Sunday service. As of now, the motives behind the shooting remain a mystery.