As investigators hunt for clues Monday as to what motivated a still unidentified woman to open fire inside Joel Osteen's Lakewood Church in Houston, Texas, on Sunday, Harris County Judge Lina Hidalgo wants investigators to examine whether the attack is a hate crime because it happened during a service for Spanish speakers.
"I will not make any assumptions because information continues to come in as to what motivated the shooter, but I am asking that the investigation look into whether it was a hate crime, given the shooting took place at an all-Spanish service," Hidalgo said in a statement published on Facebook Sunday evening.
Just before the start of the 2 p.m. Spanish language service, the shooter, described as a woman between 30 and 35 years old, entered the church armed with a rifle and accompanied by a 5-year-old child. She was also wearing a trench coat and backpack.
After she opened fire inside the church, she was shot dead by two off-duty officers identified by Houston Police Chief Troy Finner during a press conference Sunday as a Texas Alcoholic Beverage Commission agent and a Houston Police Department officer.
A 57-year-old bystander was shot in the leg and is reportedly in stable condition.
The boy brought to the church by the shooter was also critically wounded, but it is still unclear who shot him.
"The shooting at Lakewood Church today is devastating. Lakewood is beloved by many people in Harris County and around the nation. My heart goes out to the congregation and all affected, and I am angered at the fact that the alleged shooter seems to have brought a young child with her who now has terrible injuries," Hidalgo said.
"I am grateful for the swift response amongst our law enforcement agencies, including Sheriff Ed Gonzalez, and to the off-duty police officers from the Houston Police Department and the Texas Alcoholic Beverage Commission who neutralized the shooter and in doing so prevented a bigger tragedy."
When asked about what could have motivated the shooter to stage an attack at Lakewood Church, Finner declined to speculate.
"I don't want to talk about her motivations because I don't know. Right?" Finner said, according to Click2Houston. "We may never know the full story. But the important message is, we're going to stand together as a city. We're going to stand with this church today and the pastor, to make sure that healing begins immediately."
Members of the FBI, Conroe Police Department, Montgomery County Sheriff's Office, Houston Police, and Texas Rangers were at a home on Monday believed to be connected to the shooter looking for evidence that might help them determine a motive for her actions, according to KPRC 2.
In a statement to The Christian Post in the aftermath of the shooting Sunday, Osteen praised the law enforcement officers who took action against the shooter.
"In the face of such darkness, we must hold onto our faith and remember evil will not prevail. God will guide us through the darkest of times. Together, we will rise above this tragedy and stand firm in our commitment to love and support one another," Osteen said.
"In times like these, our faith is tested, but it is also strengthened. We don't always understand why things like this happen, but we know that God is in control."
Commenting on the shooting on Sunday night, Texas Sen. Ted Cruz offered prayerful support for the Lakewood Church community and praised the officers who stepped in to end the attack as "heroes."
"Heidi and I are praying for the Lakewood Church community. I join them and my hometown city of Houston in mourning after today's senseless shooting. We are grateful that off-duty law enforcement were on the scene and quickly stopped this shooter," Cruz tweeted on X. "They are heroes."
With a weekly attendance of around 45,000, Lakewood Church recently celebrated paying off a $100 million loan obtained 20 years ago to purchase and renovate the Compaq Center, formerly the home of the Houston Rockets NBA team.