Shots were fired Sunday afternoon at the Houston megachurch operated by prominent pastors Joel and Victoria Osteen, according to the church and area law enforcement officials.
“There is an active situation involving shots fired at Lakewood,” the church reported Sunday afternoon on X, formerly Twitter. “Law enforcement is on the scene. That is all the information we have at this time. Please pray for Lakewood and our community.”
Houston police tweeted around 3:30 p.m. that it was responding to a shooting at the church’s address, a 606,000-square-foot, 16,000-seat former sports arena that packs in thousands for services. “This is an on-going, active scene. Please avoid the area,” the department posted.
Ed Gonzalez, the sheriff for Harris County, where Houston is the county seat, also posted about the event on X. Gonzalez wrote at 3:10 p.m. that he’d received reports of shots fired at or around the Lakewood Church. The department had deputies working there, Gonzalez said.
Although he had initially posted that “a possible shooter” was downed, possibly by shots from one of the department’s deputies, Gonzalez later clarified that it appeared Harris County deputies did not fire shots. Other agencies fired, he said. Gonzalez had noted in the earlier post that his information was preliminary. Shortly afterward, he’d posted that any additional updates would be provided by the Houston police.
Joel Osteen is one of the highest-profile pastors in the country and the church attracts droves of people to its services every week, with reports varying from 40,000 to 50,000.
The non-denominational church streams services online and was scheduled to air its next broadcast at 7 p.m. CT., but that service was canceled, the church posted on its Facebook page.
Osteen took over as pastor when his father died in 1999. In 2017, he opened the church as a shelter from the Hurricane Harvey flooding, after social media critics slammed the church for not opening its doors sooner.
The church drew headlines again in 2021 when a plumber working at the church found hundreds of envelopes of checks and cash hidden in a wall behind a toilet. The Associated Press later reported the stash may have been linked to an earlier theft of $600,000 in checks and cash reported at the church in 2014.
The church was the site of an abortion protest in 2022, when three protesters stripped to their underwear during a church service.
The city of Houston said on social media Sunday that the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms was also on scene at the church, as well as City Mayor John Whitmire and Police Chief Troy Finner.