Sheriff says suspect "is down" after shooting at celebrity pastor Joel Osteen's Texas megachurch
Posted: February 12, 2024 - 2:27am

FILE - Flags fly in front of the Lakewood Church in Houston, June 28, 2005. Police in Texas said Sunday, Feb. 11, 2024, that they were responding to a possible shooting at the Houston megachurch run by celebrity pastor Joel Osteen. (AP Photo/Pat Sullivan, File)

HOUSTON (AP) — A Texas sheriff said Sunday that a shooter was down after a shooting at the Houston megachurch of celebrity pastor Joel Osteen on Sunday afternoon.

Harris County Sheriff Ed Gonzalez did not immediately provide more details in his post on X, the platform formerly known as Twitter. Lakewood Church had earlier posted on social media there was an “active situation involving shots fired” at one of the largest megachurches in the U.S during its typically busy Sunday services.

A news conference was scheduled for later by police and other law enforcement agencies. A heavy presence of police surrounded the Houston megachurch.

Worshippers could be seen leaving the building as authorities evacuated the church, and authorities said they were continuing to methodically search the building as a precaution. About 45,000 people attend weekly services at Lakewood, making it the third largest megachurch in the U.S., according to the Hartford Institute for Religion Research. Osteen’s televised sermons reach about 100 countries.

Earlier, Lakewood Church posted on X, formerly known as Twitter, shortly afterrward that there was an “active situation involving shots fired” at the church.

Texas Gov. Greg Abbott said “our hearts are with those impacted by today’s tragic shooting and the entire Lakewood Church community in Houston. Places of worship are sacred.”

Witnesses told reporters that they heard multiple gunshots about the time the church’s 2 p.m. Spanish language service was set to begin.

Christina Rodriguez, who was inside the church, told Houston television station KTRK that she “started screaming, ‘There’s a shooter, there’s a shooter,’” and then she and others ran to the backside of a library inside the building, then stood in a stairway before they were told it was safe to leave.

People stood outside the building as authorities evacuated the church. Officials later announced a reunification center had been set up at a nearby gym for people to find their loved ones.