Lakewood church: What we know about Texas megachurch shooting

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Lakewood ChurchReuters

A Texas woman has been shot and killed after she opened fire in a crowded megachurch owned by the evangelical pastor Joel Osteen.

Two off-duty police officers, working as church security, shot and killed the woman – who was in her 30s, Houston police chief Troy Finner said.

Two other people were shot, including an older man and a young boy who is in a critical condition in hospital.

The suspect and victims have yet to be identified.

It is unclear what prompted the shooting, and officers have refused to speculate on a motive.

Here is what we know so far.

How the shooting happened

Around 14:00 local time (20:00 GMT), the woman – who police said was aged between 30 and 35 years old – walked into the Houston megachurch carrying a long rifle, wearing a trench coat and backpack.

Mr Osteen, speaking at a police press conference on Sunday, said the church was about to start its afternoon Spanish-speaking service.

Houston Police Chief Troy Finner said the woman entered with a young boy, but did not comment on whether the two had any relationship.

Shortly after she opened fire, a 28-year-old Houston police officer and a 38-year-old agent with the Texas Alcoholic Beverage Commission tried to subdue the woman and shot her.

“She had a long gun, and it could have been worse,” Mr Finner said at the press conference. “But they stepped up and did their job.”

He added that she was seen spraying “some type of substance on the ground”.

After being shot, she told the two officers there was a bomb, but after a search law enforcement did not find any explosives in her backpack or vehicle.

Who was injured?

It is not clear whether the young boy – who is around five years old – was struck by gunfire from an officer or the woman.

“That female, that suspect, put that baby in danger. I’m going to put that blame on her,” Mr Finner said.

A male victim in his 50s was also taken to hospital.

Who is Joel Osteen and what is Lakewood Church?

Mr Osteen, a 60-year-old televangelist, took the helm of one of the most popular megachurches in the country after his father and Lakewood’s founding pastor died.

The 16,000-seat church used to be home to the Houston Rockets, an NBA team, before undergoing renovations in the early 2000s.

Under Mr Osteen’s leadership, the church has grown in size and reputation, with 45,000 parishioners attending weekly services in person, in addition to those who watch online and on television.

According to the Hartford Institute for Religion Research, it is the third-largest church in the country.

“Our community is devastated by today’s events and grateful for the swift actions of law enforcement,” Mr Osteen said in a statement. “In the face of such darkness, we must hold onto our faith and remember evil will not prevail.”

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