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Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883

Boy critically wounded in shooting at Osteen-led Houston church

Pastor Joel Osteen arrives before a march in honor of George Floyd on June 2, 2020, in Houston.  (Sergio Flores)
By Livia Albeck-Ripka, Orlando Mayorquin and J. David Goodman New York Times

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

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 Sunday.

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

The boy was also shot, although 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, Finner said. 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 Osteen’s sermons online and on television.

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

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,” 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, Del Davis said, when 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 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.”

This article originally appeared in The New York Times.