HOUSTON (news agencies) — A woman in a trenchcoat opened fire with a long gun inside celebrity pastor Joel Osteen’s megachurch in Texas before being gunned down by two off-duty officers who confronted her, sending worshippers rushing from the building between busy Sunday services, authorities said.
The woman entered the Houston church with a 5-year-old boy shortly before 2 p.m. and the child was shot and critically injured. Houston Police Chief Troy Finner said it was not clear whether the child was struck by the off-duty officers who returned fire. He said a 57-year-old man also was shot and wounded.
The child was in critical condition at a children’s hospital, while the man was stable at a different hospital with a hip wound.
Finner said that after the woman began shooting, both officers “engaged” her and the woman was killed. He said that unfortunately “a 5-year-old kid was hit” although he released no immediate details on how the confrontation unfolded.
He praised the officers for quickly confronting the woman, adding, “She had a long gun, and it could have been a lot worse.”
The slain woman was not immediately identified, and her motive wasn’t clear.
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’s televised sermons reach about 100 countries.
It was not clear where Osteen was at the time. But he joined police at a news conference afterward and said the church is “devastated.” He added that the shooting could have been much worse if it had happened during the larger 11 a.m. service. He added he would pray for the victims and for the woman who did the shooting and their families.