Crime

Lakewood Church shooting: Female shooter dead, young child and man injured at Houston megachurch

A female in her 30s was quickly shot dead after opening fire at the Houston church where Joel Osteen is pastor. A child she brought with her was critically injured in the crossfire along with a male churchgoer.

Lakewood Church
AP Photo/Pat Sullivan File
FILE – Flags fly in front of the Lakewood Church June 28, 2005 in Houston. A shooting took place at Lakewood Church on February 11, 2024.

Editor’s note: Continuing coverage of Monday developments can be found here.

A woman in her mid-30’s was shot dead after opening fire inside Lakewood Church in Houston on Sunday afternoon.

Houston Police Chief Troy Finner said the 35-year-old woman accompanied by a 5-year-old child and armed with a long rifle entered the west side of the church building around 1:53 p.m. Sunday. The child sustained critical injuries following the shooting and a 57-year-old man was shot in the leg, he said.

Finner said the woman began to fire upon entering the building and threatened that she also had a bomb. Two off-duty officers working security, one a Texas Alcoholic Beverage Commission agent and a Houston police officer, shot the woman dead shortly after she entered the building.

“It could’ve been a lot worse,” Lakewood Church Pastor Joel Osteen said at a press conference Sunday evening. “Of course we’re devastated. We have been here 65 years and had somebody shooting in our church. We don’t understand why these things happen but we know God is in control.”

The nondenominational Christian megachurch is located in the 3700 block of Southwest Freeway in Houston.

Finner said Sunday afternoon that he didn’t want to speculate about her motives.

“We may never know the full story,” he said.

When asked if the off-duty officers who fired at the female gunman were also responsible for injuring the child, Finner said it was too soon to speculate, but he would not blame the officers.

“I’m going to put that blame on her,” Finner said.

Videos on X show when the shooting began. It appears there were three to four initial shots, followed by about a dozen shots.

One person at the scene who spoke with Houston Public Media said he was about to take his baby to the church daycare when he saw security running and heard about an active shooter. That’s when he grabbed his family and ran out of the church.

“We still can’t believe that we were so close to this,” he said. “Let’s pray that there are no deaths.”

Lakewood Church, led by Osteen, asked people to pray for its community in a post to X Sunday. A Spanish language service took place at 2 p.m. around the time of the shooting, according to the church’s website.

Lakewood Church shooting officials meet
City of Houston
Houston and Harris County leaders, including Houston Mayor John Whitmire, get updates at the scene of a shooting at Lakewood Church on Sunday, February 11, 2024.

“Our hearts are with those impacted by today’s tragic shooting and the entire Lakewood Church community in Houston,” Texas Governor Greg Abbott said in a statement Sunday evening. “Places of worship are sacred.”

The scene remained active hours after the incident, Houston police said on X. Footage from television helicopters showed a massive police response and families gathering outside of the church building.

“Traffic is very heavy near and on the service road,” according to police. “Please avoid the area and use alternate routes.”

Houston police said family members were reuniting at the Lifetime Fitness, 1 Healthy Way, near Lakewood Church immediately after the shooting.

Lakewood averages more than 40,000 worshipers at multiple services each weekend. The venue was once known as The Summit, where the Houston Rockets played from 1975-2003.