A child was critically injured on Sunday afternoon after a woman in her 30s 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 long rifle and wearing a trench coat and backpack, entered Lakewood Church, among the largest congregations in the United States. She came with a child 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 officers responded and the woman was shot and killed, Chief Finner said. The child was also shot, though it is unclear by whom, and remains in critical condition at a Houston-area hospital, along with a man in his 50s who was shot in the leg, he said.
The woman also threatened she had a bomb, and appeared to be spraying an unidentified substance on the ground, Chief Finner said, noting that the authorities did not find any explosives.
“She had a long gun and it could have been a lot worse,” he said, noting that the authorities did not believe there was any further danger to the public. The motive for the shooting remains unclear.
The shooting took place as the Spanish-language service was beginning at the church, which is attended each Sunday by thousands of people.
Videos posted to the church’s social media appeared to show congregants standing and cheering earlier Sunday as a band played onstage. Another showed Mr. Osteen, whose weekly televised services reach millions of viewers, addressing congregants.
“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.”
Del Davis, 71, and his wife, Denise, were inside the church building, making their way out as Mr. Davis said he heard gunfire erupt. An avid gun collector and retired paramedic, he said he could tell immediately they were shots.
“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 were scattering. “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 shots fired and saw a person who appeared to be in their 20s or 30s 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.”
One TikTok livestream showed throngs of evacuated families and churchgoers milling about a grassy courtyard near the church. A collective chatter, mostly in Spanish, filled the air, pierced at times by the cries of restless young children. At one point, a group of women could be heard singing religious hymns.
Governor Greg Abbott of Texas said in a statement on Sunday that he had offered state resources to assist the community and to “help bring swift justice to the criminal who committed this heinous act.”