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Shooting at Joel Osteen’s Lakewood Church Leaves Boy Critically Injured


A boy was critically injured on Sunday afternoon after a woman opened fire at a Christian megachurch in Houston led by Joel Osteen, the televangelist and pastor, the authorities said.

At just before 2 p.m., the woman, holding a rifle, wearing a trench coat and carrying a backpack, entered Lakewood Church, among the largest congregations in the United States. She came with a boy of about 4 or 5 years old, Chief Troy Finner of the Houston Police Department said at a news conference on Sunday.

Two off-duty law enforcement officers who were working at the church on Sunday shot and killed the woman after she opened fire, Chief Finner said.

The boy was also shot, though it is unclear by whom. He was in critical condition at a hospital. A man in his 50s who was shot in the leg was hospitalized in stable condition, the chief said.

The woman, who was described by officials as being in her 30s, also threatened that she had a bomb, and appeared to have sprayed an unidentified substance on the ground, Chief Finner said. The authorities did not find any explosives, he said.

“She had a long gun and it could have been a lot worse,” he said. The motive for the shooting was unclear.

The shooting took place as a Spanish-language service was beginning. The church, which is attended each week by 45,000 people, draws an even larger audience for Mr. Osteen’s sermons online and on television.

Videos posted to the church’s social media appeared to show congregants standing and cheering earlier on Sunday as a band played onstage. Another showed Mr. Osteen, who is the son of Lakewood’s founder and took over the church in 1999, addressing congregants.

Mr. Osteen is one of the country’s best-known preachers in the prosperity gospel movement, which teaches that God materially rewards people who are faithful to him. His sermons are known for being simple, upbeat and bordering on self-help.

“I’m in a fog, but we’re going to stay strong,” Mr. Osteen said at the news conference. “There are forces of evil, but the forces of God are stronger than that.”

The church’s website said Sunday evening’s regularly scheduled online service had been canceled.

Del Davis, 71, and his wife, Denise, were inside the church and making their way out as Mr. Davis said he heard gunfire. An avid gun collector and retired paramedic, he said he could tell immediately they were gunshots.

“I know gunshots when I hear them,” he said. “And I could smell the gun smoke.”

He said he and his wife, who are volunteers at the church, fled as the crowds scattered. “It’s always full,” he said of the services at the church.

Another eyewitness told the television station KHOU that she was inside the church when she heard several gunshots and saw a person holding a firearm. She said she ran into a smaller room where she sheltered with about 10 other people, including a child.

“We were thankful,” the woman told KHOU. “It could have been worse.”

Ruth Graham contributed reporting.





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