Shooting at Joel Osteen’s Lakewood Church in Texas: What to know


HOUSTON (AP) - One woman's purpose Celebrity pastor Joel Osteen's megachurch set on fire There was ambiguity on Monday, a day after the shooting, which sent devotees running for safety amid busy services.

Police say the suspect was shot and killed by two off-duty officers working security at Lakewood Church, one of America's largest megachurches. Two other people were also shot and injured, including a 5-year-old boy who had entered the church with the shooter and was taken to a hospital in critical condition.

Osteen said the violence could have been worse if the shooting had occurred earlier Sunday morning and during a larger service.

Here's what to know about the shooting:

How did the firing happen?

Gunshots inside the massive church, formerly home to the NBA's Houston Rockets, startled worshipers just before 2 a.m. Sunday, around the time many were getting ready to watch the Super Bowl later in the day.

Houston Police Chief Troy Finnergan did not identify the suspect at a news conference Sunday, standing near Osteen. He described the attacker as a woman in her 30s and said she had entered the church wearing a trenchcoat and backpack and armed with a long rifle, although he did not specify the exact weapon.

Finner said the woman entered the church with the young boy but did not disclose their relationship. The woman opened fire and was encountered by two off-duty officers, a Houston police officer and an agent with the Texas Alcoholic Beverage Commission, who returned fire. After the shooting, the woman told officers there was a bomb, but a search found no explosives, Finner said.

He and other officers at the scene praised officers for killing the attacker.

"He had a long gun, and it could have been much worse," Finer said. “But he stepped up and did his job.”

Who are the victims?

Authorities have not released the identities of anyone involved in the shooting.

It's unclear how the young boy, who was taken to Houston Children's Hospital, came to be hit by the bullets. Asked whether the boy was shot by one of the off-duty officers who were firing at the suspect, Finneran said he did not want to speculate, but added: "That woman, that suspect. Put that child in danger. I'm going to blame it on him."

Authorities described the second victim as a man in his 50s who was hit in the hip.

What was the reaction of the worshipers inside?

Alan Guity, whose family is from Honduras, has been a member of the church since 1998. He said he heard the gunshots while resting inside the church sanctuary, as his mother was working as an usher.

“Boom, boom, boom, boom. And I screamed, 'Mom,'" he said.

Guity, 35, said he ran to his mother and they both lay on the floor as the shooting continued. Guity said he and his mother prayed and remained on the floor for about five minutes until someone told them it was safe to leave the building. As she was taken outside, Guity saw that people were scared, crying and looking for loved ones.

Guity said he and his mother tried to calm the crowd by worshiping and singing in Spanish, "Move in me, move in me. Touch my mind and my heart. Move within me the Holy Spirit." "

Who is Joel Osteen?

Osteen, 60, took over the leadership of Lakewood Church after his father and church founding pastor John Osteen died in 1999. Under Joel Osteen the church has grown dramatically and regularly has 45,000 people attending weekly, making it the third largest. Megachurches in America, according to the Hartford Institute for Religion Research.

Osteen is the leader of what is known as the prosperity gospel, a belief that God wants his followers to be rich and healthy. He is the author of several best-selling books, including "Your Best Life Now: 7 Steps to Living at Your Full Potential."

His television services reach approximately 100 countries and the renovation of his church arena cost approximately $100 million.

After Hurricane Harvey flooded Houston in 2017, Osteen Opened his church to asylum seekers After critics on social media criticized the televangelist for not providing houses to the needy people.

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Associated Press reporter Paul J. Weber contributed to this report.



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