HOUSTON, TEXAS — A shooting at the megachurch of celebrity pastor Joel Osteen in Houston on Sunday afternoon left the shooter down, according to Harris County Sheriff Ed Gonzalez. Details were not immediately provided, but the shooting caused an “active situation involving shots fired” at Lakewood Church, one of the largest megachurches in the U.S during its typically busy Sunday services.
A heavy police presence surrounded the church after shots were fired, and worshippers were seen streaming outside the building during a busy day of weekend services. Police and other law enforcement agencies were scheduled to hold a news conference later Sunday.
The church, which typically hosts around 45,000 people for weekly services, was being methodically searched by authorities as a precaution. Osteen’s televised sermons reach about 100 countries.
Texas Gov. Greg Abbott expressed condolences, saying: “our hearts are with those impacted by today’s tragic shooting and the entire Lakewood Church community in Houston. Places of worship are sacred.”
Eyewitnesses reported hearing multiple gunshots around the time the church’s 2 p.m. Spanish language service was set to begin. One witness, Christina Rodriguez, described the chaos as she and others ran to find safety within the church.
The church was evacuated, and officials announced a reunification center had been set up at a nearby high school for people to find their loved ones.
The shooting at the Houston megachurch comes at a time when the issue of mass shootings has been a topic of concern, with data showing a rise in such incidents in recent years. Notably, the use of assault-style weapons in mass shootings has also been on the rise, contributing to the severity of these cases.
As details of the shooting at Lakewood Church continue to emerge, the community, along with law enforcement, is left to grapple with the aftermath of this tragic incident.