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A woman walked into a Houston megachurch with her children and started shooting.this is what we know

(CNN) — Authorities are investigating a Sunday afternoon shooting of Joel Osteen, pastor of a Lakewood church about 10 kilometers from downtown Houston, after they said a woman entered the church with a small child and police Start shooting before killing her.

Houston Police Chief Troy Fenner said in a statement that the woman, estimated to be between 30 and 35 years old, entered the megachurch shortly before 2 p.m. wearing a trench coat, carrying a long rifle and a backpack. .

The toddler was hit in the shooting and is in critical condition at the hospital, the police chief said. Police have not released details about a possible motive for the shooting or the relationship between the woman and the children who were accompanying her. Another man was also injured.

The shooting is just the latest example of gun violence disrupting American life in a place once considered safe: a place of worship. Others have been to schools, grocery stores, shopping malls, hospitals, college campuses and family gatherings.

Here’s what we know.

Authorities say that on Sunday, February 11, 2024, a woman opened fire at Lakewood Church in Houston, Texas. (Photo credit: Jennifer Lake/SIPAPRE/Sipa/Associated Press)

Two off-duty law enforcement officers confront attacker

The woman entered the church with a child, whom Fenner estimated to be “between 4 and 5 years old.”

“Once he got in, he started shooting,” the police chief said.

Two off-duty officers were at the scene: a 28-year-old Houston Police Department officer and a 38-year-old Texas Alcoholic Beverage Commission officer, both with less than five years of service. Two police officers confronted the gunman, who was injured, the police chief said.

Fenner said the woman died at the scene. The boy was also shot and was taken to the hospital in critical condition, but it was unclear who shot the boy. CNN has contacted police for more information.

“I want to congratulate those agents. He had a long gun and it could have been a lot worse,” Fenner said. “But they stepped up and did their job, and I want to thank them for that.”

Fenner said one man was shot in the leg and is seeking treatment at a local hospital. Authorities said the man is in stable condition.

Fenner said the two officers who confronted the gunman will be placed on administrative duty during the investigation, as is protocol with officer-involved shootings.

“This is not only traumatic for our community, it’s certainly traumatic for the officers who had to take lives, and we’re worried about their mental health as well,” Houston Fire Chief Samuel Pena said at a news conference. , so we pray for them.” on Sunday.

The woman also threatened with bombs

The attacker also threatened her with a bomb, but authorities searched her vehicle and backpack and found no explosives, the Houston police chief said.

Fenner said he also sprayed “some kind of substance” on the ground, but did not give any further details. Pena said the fire department was on scene and would “take some time to make sure any issues and risks we identify are properly inspected.”

The fire chief added: “At this time, I can safely say that we are not aware of anything relevant to our community or this location, but we are taking our time to make sure we consider all aspects.”

CNN has reached out to the Houston Fire Department for more information.

The police chief said authorities would conduct a methodical search of the large church building, which was once a stadium, but did not believe there was any further danger to the public. He added that the shooting appeared to be an isolated incident.

Texas Gov. Greg Abbott said he has been in contact with local and state officials and offered the state’s “full support and resources” to help communities.

“Please join Cecilia and me in praying for your community during this difficult time and for the brave men and women in blue who acted quickly to respond to this tragedy,” Abbott added.

Witnesses describe ‘erratic’ gunfire and screams

Pastor Osteen said at a news conference on Sunday that the shooting occurred “in between services” at the church and while preparing for a Spanish service.

“We’re heartbroken,” he said. “We’ve been here for 65 years and someone shoots up your church…”

Osteen later added: “I can only imagine if this happened during the 11 o’clock service.”

A woman who was at the church at the time of the shooting told CNN affiliate KHOU that she was one of the last people to greet Osteen as he greeted everyone after the service.

Shortly after, he told the news station he heard a repetitive crashing sound, almost like a “mechanical sound.”

“It sounded like they were taking apart folding tables and throwing them on the floor,” he said. “But their performance has been inconsistent.”

The woman then said she heard another series of gunshots and saw people screaming and running away. He ran into a room and entered with several other people, including a child. The group placed two large wooden boards over the door to prevent it from opening, and then began to pray.

“We’re grateful,” he said. “We could be victims. “They could shoot us. “

—CNN’s Raja Razek contributed to this report.

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