A serene Sunday afternoon was shattered when a woman, clad in a trench coat and armed with a long gun, unleashed a barrage of bullets inside Joel Osteen's renowned Lakewood Church in Houston, Texas, Business Times has learned. The assailant, whose motives remain unclear, was swiftly neutralized by the prompt action of two off-duty law enforcement officers present at the scene. However, the violent outbreak left a young boy critically wounded and a 57-year-old man injured, casting a shadow of horror over the congregation.

Houston Police Chief Troy Finner, addressing the media, revealed that the woman entered the church premises with a 5-year-old boy shortly before 2 p.m. The subsequent gunfire, which erupted amidst the church's bustling environment between services, led to the child sustaining critical injuries. The condition of the young boy, treated at a children's hospital, and the man, nursing a hip wound at another facility, encapsulated the tragic consequences of the unforeseen attack.

Chief Finner commended the bravery of the two off-duty officers-a Houston police officer and an agent with the Texas Alcoholic Beverage Commission-who confronted the shooter, thereby preventing what could have escalated into a catastrophe. "She had a long gun, and it could have been a lot worse," Finner stated, acknowledging the officers' decisive intervention. The identity of the woman, aged between 30 to 35 years, was not immediately disclosed as investigations continued.


The incident, unfolding between the church's regular services, which draw an average weekly attendance of 45,000 worshippers, highlighted the vulnerability of even the most sacred spaces. Joel Osteen, the celebrity pastor whose televised sermons reach across the globe, expressed his devastation at the news conference. "We're going to stay strong and we're going to continue to move forward," Osteen affirmed, emphasizing resilience in the face of adversity and extending his prayers to all affected, including the assailant and their families.

The chaos and terror that unfolded were recounted by witnesses caught in the ordeal. Christina Rodriguez, who found herself in the midst of the crisis, described the moment fear gripped her heart. "I started screaming, 'There's a shooter, there's a shooter,'" she recalled, her voice a mixture of panic and disbelief as she and others sought refuge within the church's confines.

Alan Guity, a longtime member of Lakewood Church, shared his personal tale of terror and faith. As gunshots rang out, Guity's immediate thought was for his mother. "Boom, boom, boom, boom and I yelled, 'Mom,'" he recounted, the fear palpable in his voice.

Together, they lay on the floor, praying for safety amidst the continuous gunfire. "We remained there for about five minutes until someone told us it was safe to evacuate," Guity added, describing the moment they finally felt relief from their terrifying ordeal.

In the aftermath, Texas Governor Greg Abbott echoed the sentiments of solidarity and support for the Lakewood Church community, underlining the sanctity of worship places. The swift response of law enforcement and the establishment of a reunification center for families showcased the coordinated effort to address the crisis.

As the Lakewood Church, a beacon of hope and faith housed in a former sports arena, grapples with this dark episode, the community's strength and unity emerge as beacons of light. The investigation into the shooting, with the involved officers on administrative leave, aims to uncover the sequence of events and motivations behind the attack, as the church and its followers seek healing and justice in the wake of this tragic incident.