A woman carrying an AR-15 that had “Palestine” written on it started shooting at the megachurch of celebrity pastor Joel Osteen in Houston on Sunday, injuring one man before she was shot and killed by two off-duty officers working as security, police said.
A young child with the woman was critically hurt in the shooting and another man nearby was also wounded. Donna Hansen, chief of the felony division at the district attorney’s office, said on Monday the child was not expected to survive.
The shooter, who was reported to be between 30 and 35 years old, entered the Lakewood Church — which is attended by 45,000 people weekly — at roughly 2 p.m. in a trench coat when she opened fire, Houston Police Chief Troy Finner said.
The off-duty officers were a 28-year-old Houston Police Department officer and a 38-year-old agent with the Texas Alcoholic Beverage Commission
“I want to commend those officers. She had a long gun and it could have been a lot worse,” Finner declared. “But they stepped up and they did their job, and I want to thank them for that.”
A federal law enforcement source said that the shooter used an AR-15 that had “Palestine” written on it, CNN reports.
The shooter, who had a backpack, threatened that she had a bomb, though law enforcement found no explosives either in her backpack or her vehicle. She also sprayed “some type of substance on the ground.” Finner said.
Questions have emerged regarding the gender-identity of the shooter, who according to arrest records had also identified as a man named “Jeffrey” in recent years.
Osteen said his community was “devastated.”
“We’re devastated,” Osteen said. “We’ve been here 65 years and to have somebody shooting at your church … I can only imagine if it would have happened during the 11 o’clock service,” Osteen said, noting that the church was “in between services” and readying to go into a Spanish service when the shooting occurred.
Osteen issued a statement on X:
Our community is devastated by today’s events and grateful for the swift actions of law enforcement. May the healing hands of God touch the lives of everyone involved and provide comfort during this difficult time. In the face of such darkness, we must hold onto our faith and remember evil will not prevail. God will guide us through the darkest of times. Together, we will rise above this tragedy and stand firm in our commitment to love and support one another. In times like these, our faith is tested, but it is also strengthened. We don’t always understand why things like this happen, but we know that God is in control. Please join me in continued prayer for healing and peace.
Our community is devastated by today’s events and grateful for the swift actions of law enforcement. May the healing hands of God touch the lives of everyone involved and provide comfort during this difficult time.
In the face of such darkness, we must hold onto our faith and… pic.twitter.com/hAzOSSX69i
— Joel Osteen (@JoelOsteen) February 12, 2024
Editor’s note: This piece has been updated to reflect that the AR-15 mentioned in the story reportedly had “Palestine” written on it.