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Shooting Reports At Joel Osteen's Mega Church In Houston; Secretary Of Defense Austin Taken To Walter Reed Medical Center; Biden And Netanyahu Hold Talks; Houston Police Give Update On Shooting At Joel Osteen's Church; Secretary Lloyd Austin Was Taken To Walter Reed Medical Center. Aired 5-6p ET

Aired February 11, 2024 - 17:00   ET




FREDRICKA WHITFIELD, CNN HOST: This is CNN Breaking News. Hello again everyone. Thank you so much for joining me. I'm Fredericka Whitfield and we're staying on top of several breaking news stories at this hour. A huge police presence right now in Houston after reports of shots fired at Joel Osteen's Lakewood Mega Church. We're waiting to hear if there are -- is there any progress on the investigation?

Also, right now we're learning that U.S. Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin has been taken to Walter Reed Medical Center. Pentagon officials say it was for an emergent bladder issue.

Let's begin in Houston now. So, Jean Casarez is joining now. A shooting taking place at this mega church in Houston, which is right on the southwest freeway there in Houston. And we also have reports as you said earlier that the shooter possibly is down. Tell us more.

JEAN CASAREZ, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, that is what we're hearing. This is Joel Osteen's Lakewood Church, nationally known, broadcasts his sermons every Sunday across the country. But the Harris County Sheriff Ed Gonzalez is saying that he believes that the shooter is down. But here is the pivotal question that we do not know. Was anyone shot? Were any of those parishioners shot?

Our affiliate KHOU spoke with someone who was in the church ready for the Spanish language service to begin at 3:00 p.m. Central time, and all of a sudden, they said they started hearing multiple shots. The usher then told them to run, and apparently everyone did run out of that sanctuary. We do have a brand-new sound from KHOU, also an affiliate of CNN, someone who believes that they potentially are an eyewitness. Take a listen.


UNKNOW: We were escorted during the evacuation by SWAT team, by the police, the local Houston police, and also by the FBI, okay.

UNKNOWN: Describe what you saw and or heard. UNKNOWN: Well, we were leaving the service, and Joel was meeting and

greeting everybody right outside on the second floor where all this happened. And I was one of the last people to meet and greet with Joel, the pastor here. And I went into the ladies' room and when I came out, I headed towards the nearest exit on the second floor and I heard this like bam, bam, like mechanical sounds like, it almost sounded like folding tables were being dismantled and dropped to the floor.

And then there was like, but they were erratic, okay. And then there was another set of like bam, bam, bam. And then all of a sudden it sounded -- I stopped and I looked at the entrance and people were screaming and scattering and I went, oh no, no, no, this is not equipment being dismantled. There's something going on.

And then I saw a gentleman, I'd say, late 20s, early 30, but I couldn't get a look at his face, but he was like standing like this and he had it looked like a pistol because it had a long -- had a long pipe on it, okay.


And it was like -- and he was pointing in the, not the opposite direction, but like at an angle to me.

UNKNOWN: You think he was one of the shooters or the shooter?

UNKNOWN: Oh, it might have been because there was a gun, there was a gun in his hand, okay.

UNKNOWN: And he wasn't an officer.

UNKNOWN: No. No, no, he was dressed in normal clothes. I couldn't describe it because it happened so fast. I just saw him, you know, near the entrance and he was standing like this, like almost, you know, the feet apart and he was like, like this. I mean, evidently that's where the shots were coming from.


CASAREZ: So obviously this is a parishioner that says she believes that she saw someone with a gun. She's talking about a long-barreled gun. And we had heard that this was actually between the services because they have numerous services through the day. And the Spanish language service was to begin at 3:00. This was a parishioner that was exiting the church. And so, from her vantage point, she believes that she saw someone with that gun.

Now, the Harris County Sheriff is saying that not only the possible shooter is down, but he believes that one of our deputies on scene may have shot him. So, this is a huge church, Fredericka, as you know. Capacity is 16,000. We were talking about it is really one of those mega churches, cameras inside, broadcasting the church services every Sunday.

And obviously now a place where there is so much law enforcement and the Family Reunification Center has just been announced in Houston. It is at the Lifetime Fitness Center in the Greenway Plaza area of Houston, Fredericka.

WHITIELD: And then we're looking at video of, you know, seeing people who are streaming out, very orderly, you know, being, you know, cordoned off or taken to a specific area, and you talk about the family unification area. Do you have anything more on, you know, the separation of people, kind of what happened? I mean, a lot of people were running. You know, we've heard from eyewitness accounts, people were running, leaving, you had an usher who was telling people to get down, et cetera.

So, as it pertains to the police investigation, you know, is it the urging of investigators who want to keep everybody, you know, while they're trying to figure out details of who's responsible, keep everybody in a central location and at the same time bring people who may have been separated together?

CASAREZ: I think what you're saying is true. We see all the people exiting the church, obviously. They wanted people to evacuate. And what we don't know still is whether any of the parishioners, anyone who was there was injured. That we don't know. That pivotal question right there. But the fact remains that if there were shots fired, it still potentially is that crime scene. And they need to get any evidence that they have of what potentially may have happened because there are so many people there.

You don't know what each individual person may have seen, may have experienced or witnessed, and may be crucial to this investigation.

WHITIELD: Right. Let me also, Jean, bring in Senior National Security Analyst Juliette Cayenne because, Juliette, obviously the investigation is ongoing. It is still an active scene, meaning you have people of interest on every level who are all still there at the Lakewood Church. So, talk to us about the importance of why you would want law enforcement, why they would want to keep everyone still together because people have seen things, as Jean says, they've all experienced something different. They're still trying to figure out all that happened and what precipitated it as well.

JULIETTE KAYYEM, CNN SENIOR NATIONAL SECURITY ANALYST: Yeah, so just depending on where the shooting took place, which we still don't know, and we don't know if there's other victims, we'll hear that relatively soon. It would simply be what happened and what did people see happen. A single eyewitness isn't gonna give you much, but 20 people seeing the same thing will tell you who he was, was he known to the congregation. Did he have a fight with someone beforehand and come back with a gun?

And this becomes relevant just for any investigation or if there was anyone else involved who may have planned this. It's hard to tell. I mean, look, the place itself is so massive that it is going to be a few hours before they basically secured it. You've got 20,000 people were probably not in the building at the time. This was a later afternoon, Sunday sermon. So, it wasn't the morning one, but nonetheless, these are major facilities that have to get evacuated. You have to get -- it looked calm, but you do have to get family

unification in place. And then every single one of those people who may have seen something will have to be interviewed. Some of them will be quick, but others may have seen a lot by police to get a picture of what in fact happened, if there are charges pressed against the individual. We don't know his state or others.


WHITFIELD: And you heard that sound bite from that one churchgoer, right, who described what she believes she saw. And this taking place, as she described, right in the middle of a changing of services. So that further complicates things too, because you have a different flow of people, you know, coming and going. There's activity, potential distractions happening, right, while someone is now carrying out this horrible act.

KAYYEM: Right, and then she described the fact that Joel Osteen was present there, so we'll want to find out what his condition is and where he is right now. He has tremendous security, whether it follows him out to say goodbye to congregants, we don't know, but certainly when he's up on stage, that stage. I've seen it, that stage has security all around it, no one can really charge him.

And these are like concerts, these are huge, huge events. And so, making sure that, you know, at least by this one eye witness, this did look like it was a sort of transitional period and lots of people were not seated at the time. And so just figuring out, getting people back together and then figuring out where leadership of the churches is key. We have no reason to believe that this was anything more than sort of a scary shooting at a high-profile place that has global outreach.

I mean, he is known globally. People watch these things live. And so just, you know, being able to tell what in fact happened will be important for the Houston police to do as soon as possible.

WHITFIELD: And Juliette, while we're talking, you can see, you know, the positioning for a news conference that's going to take place right outside of that, what it would look like right outside that church in about 20 minutes or so from now. And of course, we'll monitor that and possibly even take that live as it's happening. Yeah, okay. All right.

So, Juliette, just ahead of this press conference, what's you're feeling as to the kind of information that investigators want to have at hand to, you know, encourage the investigation further and also make a good assessment to perhaps allay a lot of fears in the community there about what happened?

KAYYEM: Yeah. This is a, I mean, this is a big deal for the city and then also for congregates who are watching and we don't know what was heard on air. We don't know what videos were going on. So, Houston Police Department knows how to do this. We've had challenges and I'm being nice here with other Texas police departments about the disclosure of information. It is just not acceptable anymore. These mass shootings are, these

shootings, excuse me, these shootings are happening too frequently. Houston knows how to do this. Just tell us, you know, if others were harmed, if there's any other fatalities, where leadership of the church is. That's going to be of import to people who are, you know, who view the church and view Joel Osteen as, you know, the equivalent of their religious leader, the head of their church.

And then where the investigation goes from there. Houston knows how to do this and hopefully sticks to the game plan despite the fact that, you know, this is a big church with a lot of, you know, a lot of controversy and politics around it at various times. Doesn't matter for purposes of today. Just give us the numbers and that's what the public deserves.

WHITFIELD: Yeah, okay. Juliette Kayyem, Jean Casarez, thank you so much. Of course, aerial pictures right now around Lakewood Church where this shooting took place. Reportedly, the shooter is down. And again, in about 20 minutes or so from now. There'll be a press conference. We'll monitor it, if not even take it live, if we're able to do that.

In the meantime, the other big breaking story that we're following, the U.S. Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin is back in the hospital. He's been transported to Walter Reed Medical Center for a second time now in the past three months. CNN White House correspondent Priscilla Alvarez has more on this.

Now, you know, he has been transported there. We know he was transported there earlier when people did not know, but he was hospitalized earlier for prostate related issues. So, this really would be his third hospitalization as we know, right, in recent months, Priscilla.

PRISCILLA ALVAREZ, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Well, we're now learning that he was transported at around 2:20 this afternoon. It's only a few hours ago by his security detail to Walter Reed Medical Center. Now this statement from the Pentagon press secretary says that the reason for that was quote symptoms suggesting an emergent bladder issue.

Now this goes on to know that the secretary is retaining the functions and duties of his office and as the deputy secretary is prepared to assume the functions and duties of the Secretary of Defense if required.

To your earlier point, Fredericka, this of course comes after the defense secretary was hospitalized for complications following prostate cancer surgery in early January. He was then discharged in about mid-January. But all of that caused a firestorm in Capitol Hill and at the White House because the president and Congress did not know at the time that he was hospitalized and or the reason for why he was hospitalized.

[17:15:00] And since then, the defense secretary has apologized, saying that it was mishandled and committing to better communicating should it come up again and that's what we're seeing play out today. In fact, this statement explicitly notes that the White House and Congress have been notified that the defense secretary was taken to the hospital this afternoon again.

This is because of an emergent bladder issue in early January. The reasons were because of complications following prostate cancer surgery. The Pentagon committing here to keep updates coming as they have them. But for now, all we know is that he was transported with a security detail earlier this afternoon and that he is retaining the functions of the post.

WHITFIELD: Okay. Priscilla Alvarez, keep us posted as you learn any more information. Of course, we're wishing him well.

All right. Coming up, President Biden held a call with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu today. What he said about a potential hostage release in Israel's ground operation in the city of Rafah.



WHITFIELD: President Biden and Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu speaking on the phone today for the first time in weeks amid growing tensions. The conversation comes as Israel plans to evacuate more than a million Palestinians taking shelter in the southern city of Rafah. As it prepares for a ground offensive, civilians say they have nowhere left to go. Today, Qatar is calling on the U.N. Security Council to prevent Israel from committing what it describes as genocide.

And on Capitol Hill this afternoon, the U.S. Senate, in a key vote, moved one step closer to passing a bill that would provide tens of billions in assistance and military aid, not just for Israel, but also Ukraine and Taiwan. CNN's Jeremy Diamond joining us live now from Tel Aviv. Jeremy, what do we know was, I guess, the nucleus of the conversation between President Biden and Netanyahu?

JEREMY DIAMOND, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, first of all, it's important to note that this is the first time these two men have spoken since President Biden just days ago called Israel's military response in the Gaza Strip over the top. And it comes as there are clear tensions between Netanyahu and the White House. We're told that most of this 45-minute call focused on these hostage negotiations, negotiations that could potentially provide a lengthy ceasefire in this war in Gaza.

And it comes as Netanyahu has slammed Hamas's latest counterproposal as delusional, whereas U.S. officials have really sought to focus on the fact that there has been real progress on these talks in recent weeks. CIA Director Bill Burns is set to go to Cairo on Tuesday to continue those negotiations. And so, this was clearly a key call ahead of that next critical meeting as Hamas has also been meeting with Egyptian and Qatari officials. But we also know that another portion of this call also focused on

what the Israeli military is telegraphing may come next. And that is a major military operation in what has become the last refuge for so many Palestinians -- 1.4 million Palestinians currently living in the southernmost city of Rafah. We're told that President Biden told the Israeli Prime Minister very clearly that an Israeli military operation in that city should not proceed without serious and clear plans for how to evacuate the civilian population from there, how to ensure their safety.

And that the president also talked to Prime Minister Netanyahu about increasing humanitarian aid there. So, a very clear message from the United States at a time when so many countries are expressing extreme concern about this potential military operation where there are so many displaced Palestinians.

WHITFIELD: And do we know, Jeremy, whether Netanyahu gave in any detail to President Biden how people would get this safe passage?

DIAMOND: No, I mean, at this point, it seems like the Israeli military is still very much in the planning phase to try and prepare for that eventuality. We know that the Israeli prime minister said today on U.S. political shows that he's directed the Israeli military to plan on both fronts, for this military operation on the one hand, and also to provide, quote, unquote, "safe passage for those civilians." But there are very little details about exactly what that will look like. Here's the Israeli prime minister earlier today.


BENJAMIN NETANYAHU, PRIME MINISTER OF ISRAEL: Victory is within reach. We're going to do it. We're going to get the remaining Hamas terrorist battalions in Rafah, which is the last bastion. But we're going to do it, and in this I agree with the Americans, we're going to do it while providing safe passage for the civilian population so they can leave.


DIAMOND: And so, the Israeli prime minister talked about those civilians moving north. But what we know is that north of Rafah, there is just enormous, enormous destruction with a majority of the buildings and structures having been either partially damaged or completely destroyed. And one of the reasons why Rafah has become that last refuge for so many displaced Palestinians is because that is also where much of the aid is coming in via that Rafah border crossing with Egypt.


And so humanitarian aid groups have much more infrastructure in Rafah than they do anywhere else in the Gaza Strip. So, planning for how to shelter these -- so many of these people, how to feed so many of these people, provide clean water is going to be a major, major challenge. And so far, no details from the Israeli military about exactly how they will go about that. WHITFIELD: All right. Jeremy Diamond in Tel Aviv. Thanks so much. All

right. Let's bring in CNN political and national security analyst David Sanger. He's also the "New York Times" White House and National Security Correspondent. Good to see you, David. So, you heard Netanyahu there who sounded very definitive that he is going to be able to grant safe passage to people. But to where?

DAVID SANGER, CNN CONTRIBUTOR: It's a great question, Fredericka, because obviously Israel said this before at various moments when they asked many of the Palestinians, the residents of Gaza, to move south as their operation began. Now they're down in Rafah where, as you heard from Jeremy, there are in the region probably about 1.4 million Palestinians. That's a good part of the population of the entire strip.

And they're kind of out of room because south of them is the fence, so they can't get through that. And north of them is rubble from operations that have taken place already, so it's not clear where they would have the space, where the Israelis or someone else could set up the tents, the sanitary facilities, the food distribution.

Now, the good news here is it doesn't look like it's all that imminent. And of course, if the hostage negotiations worked out, though Prime Minister Netanyahu sounded pretty skeptical of that, then there would be this ceasefire that might at least delay and perhaps prevent the Rafah operation.

WHITFIELD: So, do you think this discussion out loud is really about trying to go through a back channel of negotiations, that really, it's about negotiations, perhaps threaten, you know, to try to evacuate people or threaten this ground incursion when really it is about trying to find some leverage in negotiations for the release of hostages?

SANGER: It could well be. At the same time, we don't hold a lot of doubt that a good deal of the Hamas leadership is probably down in Rafah. There are going to be tunnels down underneath the city the way there have been in other locations in Gaza, and the Israelis are gonna want to get at that. But the prime minister said in that clip that you played that Israel was very close to victory here. That is not the assessment of the intelligence officials I have spoken to from the U.S. and from European countries.

Many of them believe that a lot of leadership still remains. Now, maybe some of their capability has been seriously degraded and this gets to the very hard question how do you define a defeat of Hamas which of course is one of the Israeli objectives. The other is the return of all the hostages and of course we're finding these two objectives in direct competition with each other.

WHITFIELD: All right. Now I talk to you about NATO and what's being said on the campaign trail. Former President Donald Trump last night at a rally, I mean, hit some familiar themes on NATO and how, you know, not all the countries are contributing. Take a listen.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) DONALD TRUMP, FORMER PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES OF AMERICA: One of the presidents of a big country stood up and said, well, sir, if we don't pay and we're attacked by Russia, will you protect us? I said, you didn't pay? You're delinquent? He said, yes. Let's say that happened. No, I would not protect you. In fact, I would encourage them to do whatever the hell they want. You've got to pay.


WHITFIELD: You wrote about those comments today in "The New York Times." How potentially dangerous, threatening is this?

SANGER: Well, pretty threatening and dangerous if you believe that the president would carry through on it and we know that during his term in office particularly in 2018, he did walk (inaudible) out of NATO.

What he did in that brief clip that you played though, Fredricka, was something different, something we didn't hear during his four years in office, which was essentially an invitation to Vladimir Putin to go test the solidarity of NATO by going after a NATO country.


And the president saying that the United States would not come to that country's aid. Now, we don't know if this conversation really took place. It falls into a pattern of stories that former President Trump has told many times, where sometimes the conversation back and forth has been amended to fit his narrative.

That may have been the case here. I suspect we would have heard it, heard about it if a few years ago he had told the leader of a major country that the United States would not come to their aid. But it would essentially be the shattering of NATO. And that, of course, is the ultimate goal of Vladimir Putin.

WHITFIELD: Hmm. All right. David Sanger, great to see you. Thanks so much.

SANGER: Good to see you.

WHITFIELD: All right, at any moment now, there will be a press conference underway there in Houston outside of the Lakewood megachurch where a shooting took place earlier today. We'll bring you those latest details from that press conference at any moment.


WHITFIELD: I want to take you straight to Houston right now at a press conference involving a shooting at Joel Osteen's Lakewood Church. Let's listen in.


MAYOR JOHN WHITMIRE, HOUSTON CITY, TEXAS: -- first responders' reaction in a timely fashion to Chief Finner and Chief Pena. I want Houstonians and surrounding communities to know that the first responders are doing their job in protecting the public, Houstonians, and surrounding communities.

I also want everyone to know that this is a perfect example of the collaboration between departments. It's exactly what we've been calling for. HPD, constables, I could just go through a list of multiple agencies representing their agencies in a very responsive way.

We want to give our condolences to Reverend Osteen and his congregation. It's unfortunate. On the day that we want to attend church, watch America's number one sports event, we find ourselves gathered here to respond to this tragedy.

We want Houstonians to know that they are being protected by their first responders. We want to thank the Houston Fire Department for their quick response, the medical profession who is tending to one of the injured.

So, as mayor of city of Houston, I want to assure everyone that everyone is at work doing their job. Let's come together on this beautiful day, a day that we're experiencing a tragedy. Let's hug our loved ones. When you leave here today, go hug your loved ones and say a prayer for those that are involved. Say a prayer for those officers that had to drop this suspect. They're suffering right now.

All these other first responders that I'm surrounded by, they're doing their job so we can be safe. At this time, let me yield to our police chief, Troy Finner.

TROY FINNER, POLICE CHIEF OF HOUSTON CITY, TEXAS: Thank you, mayor. Like the mayor said, I think the most important message before I get in the details, let's talk about the resiliency of our great city. We worship together, we cry together, but we rebuild together. This is a tragic day to watch how we stand together. No suspect -- our suspects were turned on our city and all places of worship.


Pastor Osteen is standing with us and all of our partners. I want to thank them all, our local, our state, our federal partners. I just want to give some detail here, but pray for everybody that's involved, the victims who I'll discuss here, and the unsaid victims, those individuals that came here to worship today and had to witness this. But rest assured, in this city, we're going to stand strong and we're going to move forward.

So, approximately at 1:53 p.m., a female, approximately 30, 35 years old, entered the property on the west side here in the parking lot of Lakewood Church. She entered the building. She was armed with a long rifle and a trench coat with a backpack, accompanied by a small child, approximately four to five years old. Once she entered, at some point, she began to fire.

I want to compliment the off-duty officers who will work in extra employment here. One TABC agent, four years of service, 38 years old. An HPD off-duty officer, 28 years old, two years of service. Both officers, officer and agent, engaged, striking the female. She's deceased here on the scene.

Unfortunately, a five-year-old kid was hit and is a critical condition at our local hospital. There was a 57-year-old man who didn't have anything to do with it, I don't think, was shot in the leg. He's seeking treatment in the hospital. So, let's all pray for each and every one of them.

Once she went down, officers reported back to us that she threatened that she had a bomb. So, we searched her vehicle, our bomb squad, and also the backpack. No explosives were found, but she was also spraying some type of substance on the ground. So HFD came and the chief fire chief would speak briefly on that.

But again, we're going to stand strong. Again, I want to commend those officers. She had a long gun and it could have been a lot worse. But they stepped up and they did their job. And I want to thank them for that.

As you know, when officers involved in the shooting, we conducted criminal investigation, Harris County District Attorney's Office. And also, both agencies conduct administrative investigations. That will take place. Both of these officers will -- the officer and agent will be placed on administrative duty.

But again, let's pray for everybody. We stand strong here in Houston. Um, I'll pass it on right now. Let me say this to places worship. That's what they are, and that's what they will remain in our city. So, it's just an opportunity for us to refocus and make sure that we all look out for one another.

There will be increased patrols and a lot of conversation in our command post with our federal partners and our local partners. We're going to increase those patrols in and around those religious institutions. And it doesn't matter which faith. We love everybody here in our city and everybody is important. So, let me pass it on to Fire Chief Pena.

SAMUEL PENA, FIRE CHIEF OF HOUSTON CITY, TEXAS: Thank you, Troy. Thank you, chief and thank you, mayor. First of all, let me -- let me thank all the agencies that are here with us. This is really a team effort. And our prayers are with and our positive thoughts are with the injured and with the officers that engaged this suspect.

It's traumatic not only for our community, but it's certainly traumatic for the officers who had to take a life. And we worry about their mental health as well. So, our prayers are with them, and we're going to give them whatever support they need to ensure that they are able to manage through this incident safely.

Kudos to the first responders. The Houston Fire Department Police Department was here within minutes. We are now dealing with consequence management of this incident now that the threat has been neutralized. We are going to take our time to ensure that any issue, any risk that we see is properly vetted.

We have our hazmat team on scene. You see behind us, you have decon (ph) units that are participating in collaboration with the Houston Police Department's bomb squad to ensure that we are looking at every aspect that may be of risk.


Right now, I can safely say that we have not found anything that is of concern to our community or to this location. But we're going to take our time to ensure that we look at every aspect. Our Hazmat team, our decon (ph) team, and our rescue team will remain on scene until needed, and we're going to collaborate in this effort.

We did transport two patients. One, approximately a five-year-old child in critical condition. They went to Texas Children's. And we transported a second male, about 56 years of age, with an injury to the hip. Last I heard, he was in stable condition. Both are still in the hospital. The child is still in critical condition. We don't have any further information as far as his status.

But again, let's pray for this community as a whole. This is traumatic for everyone, every Houstonian, and these types of incidents are, unfortunately, something that we deal more often than we need to with. So, look, we're going to remain on scene. I'm going to pass this on now to --

FINNER: Let me get it right before I get --

PENA: Okay.

FINNER: Let me before I bring it up.

PENA: Yeah.

FINNER: Really quickly. Uh, this is -- uh, yeah, this is a light -- uh, an isolated incident, we believe, at this moment. Okay? No further danger to our public. But we do want to do -- conduct a methodical search of the building to make sure that nobody is in there, nobody else is in there hurt. So that will continue. Um, we ask that the public stay away from the area. Let us do our job on that.

The reunification location for our parents or our family members, the Lifetime Fitness Center here. You come up, we'll direct you. Try to stay on the east side of the building, not on the west side of the building. We'll get you and reunited with your family members. Okay, pastor.

JOEL OSTEEN, PASTOR: First off, thank you, chief, and the mayor. Chief Pena and all of these men and women did an amazing job. It's just -- you said it, chief, it could have been a lot worse.

Of course, we're devastated. I mean, we've been here 65 years and have somebody shooting in the church. But, you know, we don't understand why these things happen. But we know God id in control. We're going to pray for that little five-year-old boy and pray for the lady that was deceased, her family and all, and the other gentleman.

I don't know, it's just kind of in a fog but, you know, just believe that, you know, we're going to stay strong, we're going to continue to move forward. There are forces of evil, but the forces that are for us, the forces of God are stronger than that. So, we're going to keep going strong and just, you know, doing what God has called us to do, lift people up and give hope to the world.

Again, I want to thank all these gentlemen because, you know, I can only imagine if it would have happened during the 11:00 service. We were in between services going into the Spanish service. So, you know, if there's anything good of it, you know what, she didn't get in there and do a whole lot worse damage. So, we thank God for that. He's watching over all of us.

And as the chief says, we're going to keep going strong and bringing hope to the world. But thank you again. Thank you, friends.

FINNER: I'm going to get Chief (INAUDIBLE) for translation in Spanish. Thank you.



WHITFIELD: You heard from Joel Osteen there, who was giving thanks to all the first responders there and grateful that the outcome was not worst.

You heard from the police chief and you heard from the mayor there the description of some 30 to 35-year-old woman who entered the church with a long arm rifle, and the two police officers who were on duty working at the church were then able to take her down, but in so doing, also a five-year-old was shot and a 57-year-old shot. Both of those injuries, they are now being hospitalized.

Our Jean Casarez has been following this as well. Jean, a pretty remarkable sequence of events taking place here.

CASAREZ: Very, very unusual sequence of events. Right now, the Fire Department continues to do a methodical search of that very huge Lakewood Church to make sure that they don't find anything.

But, Fredricka, in addition to what you're saying, that this woman walked in with the long gun, the rifle, had a trench coat on, had a backpack on, but was accompanied by the five-year-old child, that is what they said in that press conference, and these off-duty officers started to immediately engage, was the word, and in doing so, it appears that the five-year-old was shot.


He is in critical condition at this point. Joel Osteen said it was a young boy. And then a 57-year-old man was shot in what we now know to be the hip. He also has been taken to the hospital. But once she -- before they engaged her, she said she had a bomb, according to the Houston Police Department, and they saw her spraying something outside on the ground. So, Fire Department has also engaged in that area along with the Police Department. They do not find any type of explosive device at this point. They don't see anything of concern on the ground of what she was spraying, but this investigation continues.

WHITFIELD: Hmm, yeah, I mean, it is remarkable, and even we heard from Joel Osteen there who was talking about this happening in between services. This taking place right as the Spanish language service was to begin. He described -- you know, there were so many more people who were there at the same time. He's just grateful, you know, that more injuries didn't take place, that the outcome wasn't worse than what it was.

CASAREZ: And thank goodness that they were positioned, those off-duty officers, in what appears to be the sanctuary of the church that you would enter before you enter into the actual area, the foyer before the sanctuary.

WHITFIELD: Uh-hmm, yeah, and it sounds like the description was there were two officers who were working at that church. One represented -- representing Houston Police. Their instincts were, you know, very fast. You know, they made their observation and it didn't take long before they actually, you know, shot and took down that suspect.

CASAREZ: So now we see why the church was evacuated as fast, not only because of the shots, because I think the person was engaged and the female, 30 to 35 years old, was down very, very quickly. But the fact that she had said that there was a bomb, I think, made them act very quickly to get people out of that --

WHITFIELD: Jean, sorry to interrupt. We're going to go back to the press conference where they're taking questions now.

FINNER: It begins immediately. But I don't want to speculate on anything else. Next question. Go ahead, in the middle.

UNKNOWN (voice-over): Quick question. (INAUDIBLE) believe that those officers that opened fire, did they strike the child?

FINNER: I have no idea right now. She fired. We don't know. And I don't want to speculate on that. But I will say this. If it was, unfortunately, and that female, that suspect, put that baby in danger, I'm going to put that blame on her. Okay? Next question. Go ahead.

UNKNOWN (voice-over): (INAUDIBLE).

FINNER: A little bit louder.

UNKNOWN (voice-over): (INAUDIBLE).

FINNER: We do believe that. We believe that to be correct.

UNKNOWN (voice-over): (INAUDIBLE).

FINNER: I'm not sure. It's just over here on the on the west side here, just behind us. Okay, we'll get those details to you a little bit later. Go ahead, sir.

UNKNOWN (voice-over): (INAUDIBLE).

FINNER: I have no idea. Multiple shots. Go ahead.

UNKNOWN (voice-over): (INAUDIBLE)

FINNER: Nothing found. We're still searching the entire grounds. Okay? And if it is, we'll report back to you on that. Next question. Go ahead.

UNKNOWN (voice-over): Did you find an ID on the woman?

FINNER: I'm not sure, sir. If we found an ID right now, if we did, we'll share that with you. But you know what we're up against today on this on this day, and I think it's very important for us to get before the cameras as quickly as we can, not competing with the Super Bowl and everything else. Let our citizens know that everything is good here. We're standing together, and we're moving forward.

UNKNOWN (voice-over): (INAUDIBLE).

FINNER: Go ahead. He's not. I'm sorry. Let me ask you out one more. One thing. I forget to -- hold up. Hear me out. I forgot to say the pastor is not going to go with any more questions or anything today. It'll be a time a little bit later. So, I'm sorry. Didn't mean to cut you off. I've got to say that. Go ahead.

UNKNOWN (voice-over): (INAUDIBLE).

FINNER: Within minutes, sir. Within minutes. A lot of officers responded.

UNKNOWN (voice-over): (INAUDIBLE)

FINNER: I'm not sure. I'm not sure I want to speak to him.

UNKNOWN (voice-over): (INAUDIBLE) witnesses are so many.

FINNER: Yeah, that's part of the investigation. We're going to talk to those witnesses. Some are still here. Thank God they stayed that. So that's part of the investigation. One more with you and then I'm going to get over here. All right.

UNKNOWN (voice-over): The child that was with this female, is she (INAUDIBLE), that there are related like a daughter?

FINNER: I don't -- I don't want to speculate. I don't know. The only thing that we know, that they arrived here together. Okay, next question.

UNKNOWN (voice-over): (INAUDIBLE).


FINNER: Yes, yes, a white vehicle. Thanks for that. I failed to say that. A white vehicle. Yeah.

UNKNOWN (voice-over): (INAUDIBLE).

FINNER: Not right now. It's just a white vehicle. We did search that vehicle to make sure there were no explosive or anything found in it. Go ahead.

UNKNOWN (voice-over): (INAUDIBLE).

FINNER: We don't know yet. The Fire Department, as Chief Pena said, they're still evaluating that. All right. Few more questions. Go ahead.

UNKNOWN (voice-over): The child with the woman, is the boy the woman's child?

FINNER: I don't know. I don't know. All right, let me get somebody that asked me a question, go ahead, and then I'll come back to you. Go ahead.

UNKNOWN (voice-over): (INAUDIBLE).

FINNER: Speak up a little bit.

UNKNOWN (voice-over): How long (INAUDIBLE).

FINNER: Until we get through and the pastor and his staff will make that decision. But it's going to be closed for now. I think that was the last service for today anyway. Okay? Who's next?

UNKNOWN (voice-over): I'm just wondering, the gentleman who was hurt, was he just parishioner?

FINNER: I think so. I think so. That's what we believe at this time. He's shot in the leg. Okay? Stable condition. Go ahead.

UNKNOWN (voice-over): (INAUDIBLE).

FINNER: I don't think so. We believe her to be the lone suspect. If you can believe with thousands of people in the church, when shots are fired, people run from that area. Some people may say it was a suspect, some not. We don't believe that at this time. Okay? But anybody that ran away or seen anything, we ask that they call HPD homicide, 7133083600. Even if you left the scene, we need to get a full statement of what you witnessed. Okay?

UNKNOWN (voice-over): (INAUDIBLE).

FINNER: I'm not sure. I'm not sure. Yeah.

UNKNOWN (voice-over): (INAUDIBLE).

FINNER: I'm not sure. I didn't talk to her. That's just what's told to me. It will gather more information. We're going to do two more questions. Okay? Who hadn't -- somebody who hadn't who hadn't asked me. Go ahead. UNKNOWN (voice-over): (INAUDIBLE).

FINNER: She is deceased. Yes, ma'am. Thanks for asking. Go ahead. Last one.

UNKNOWN (voice-over): (INAUDIBLE).

FINNER: Yes, it's still being processed. Okay? That's part of the scene. It takes hours before we clear the scene.

UNKNOWN (voice-over): (INAUDIBLE) video, security camera video (INAUDIBLE).

FINNER: We'll see. We'll see. You know, we're very transparent here in the Police Department, HPD. So, we have footage at the right time, appropriate time. And if there's body worn camera, the officers were working extra job. I don't know the policy for the federal agency, but we'll check with our officers, see if he had it. Okay? Hey, thank you all. Let's continue to pray for everybody. Thank you very much.


WHITFIELD: All right, when he says everybody, there are two people who remained hospitalized, being treated for injuries after shots were fired.

Our Jean Casarez is back with us. But the shooter who entered the Lakewood Church, Joel Osteen's Lakewood Church there in Houston, that shooter who was described as a woman between the ages of 30 and 35, she was taken down by the two officers who were working and on duty at the church there, Jean. While she was taken down, two other people were injured.

And it is notable that this shooter came in with a five-year-old, and that five-year-old was shot as well. And you heard from the police chief there who said, if that child was brought in by that shooter, and that's what they suspect, then whatever happens to that child, it's on her. But he did say he wanted everyone to feel rest assured that everything is good here. We're standing together and now moving forward.

CASAREZ: One thing that we just learned with what was said by law enforcement was that when this woman, 30 to 35 years old, came in with the trench coat, with the rifle, with the backpack, she then started shooting, and the two law enforcement officers that were there in what believes to be a foyer of the church engaged.

So, shots were flying both ways because they saw what she had, what she was starting to do, and potentially where she would go into the sanctuary, and it was during that time that the five-year-old child that accompanied her, that she brought in, was shot along with a man shot in the leg or the hip, as law enforcement said.

At this point, they don't know what shot went into, either from the shooter or from law enforcement, the five-year-old or even the 57- year-old man at this point, but it obviously was an emergency situation that had to be taken care of before the masses of people inside that sanctuary would start to be potentially shot by this female shooter.

WHITFIELD: Uh-hmm. Frightening situation.


You heard from Pastor Joel Osteen who, you know, said while this happened, in between a Spanish language service just about to begin and the other service which was much larger was wrapping up, he was just, you know, counting the blessings on how it really could have been a far worse scenario with so many more people there, but he extended that he was hugely grateful to all the first responders who were there.

All right, Jean Casarez, thank you so much. We're going to continue to follow that story. The police assure the Houston community that everything is okay now, now that they have taken down the shooter, someone who walked right into that Joel Osteen's Lakewood Church.

And we're also following the other big story out of Washington, D.C. where the Pentagon is confirming that the U.S. secretary of defense, Lloyd Austin, has been transported to Walter Reed Medical Center for another time, the second time in the past three months transported because of complications.

CNN Chief Medical Correspondent Sanjay Gupta joining us now. So, Sanjay, help us understand. What we have been told is that it was emergent bladder issue. Now, we know that he had complications from his prostate surgery earlier, and then he was hospitalized for the prostate surgery. So now this is really a third hospital visit, but perhaps the second one that sounds like in the category of an emergency.

SANJAY GUPTA, CNN CHIEF MEDICAL CORRESPONDENT: Yeah, exactly. I mean, this poor guy, he's had a rough go of things, Fred. There's no question about it. So, it was it was mid-afternoon when we were notified that he was going to the hospital for, as you mentioned, emergent bladder issues which is something that can happen after someone has had prostate surgery.

Typically, if it's emergent, it typically means someone has what's called urinary retention. The bladder becomes distended. It's quite painful. It's very -- he can't pee essentially, and that's the real concern here and that's what the emergency is. It can be a real emergency. Besides the bladder being distended, it can cause problems with heart rate and blood pressure and things like that.

But just a quick timeline. Again, as you sort of mentioned this, it was in early December that he was first notified that he had prostate cancer. He waited to have that operation until December 22nd. People sometimes schedule these operations over the holidays. And it seemed like it went fine. He was discharged the next day.

But then on January 1st, he was hospitalized for a bladder infection at that point. He was in the hospital for quite some time, two weeks, at that point, Fred. And now, you know, it's not even a month later and he's back in the hospital again.

All we know, again, these bladder issues, it could be sort of a remnant of the infection. But with prostate surgery, you can get an issue where it just becomes hard to empty one's bladder. And that can turn into a real problem, which is probably what they're addressing right now. Not likely, what we'll see, we're expecting an update, but not likely he will need any kind of anesthesia for this, but I'm sure they're trying to address the bladder issue as we speak.

WHITFIELD: And so, are you saying these are common, you know, relatively common side effects after having a prostate-related surgery?

GUPTA: Well, as far as complications go, these are the ones that more typically happen. But, you know, a lot of people have this operation and don't have any of these sorts of, you know, follow-up complications or necessary hospitalizations. But you know, the area of the body where this operation takes place, it's right in that area, around the bladder, around the urethra. People can develop swelling, a stricture, infection. Any of those things could potentially lead to problems with the bladder.

WHITFIELD: Yeah. He's probably in a lot of pain, right?

GUPTA: Yeah. I mean, that's the thing. Again, this poor guy, he has been through it. But it's the pain from not being able to empty your bladder, the abdominal pain. But I think what people don't sometimes realize is that can cause other symptoms in the body. People can drop their blood pressure. They can have aberrations in their heart rate. So, they describe this as an emergency, and I'm sure that was part of the reason why as well.

WHITFIELD: Yeah. All right, Dr. Sanjay Gupta, thank you so much. Of course, we're wishing him well. As you said, he has been through a lot and it is ongoing. All right, thanks so much.

GUPTA: You got it.

UNKNOWN (voice-over): This is CNN Breaking News.

WHITFIELD: Hello again, everyone. Thank you so much for joining me. I'm Fredricka Whitfield. We continue to follow multiple breaking news stories at this hour. Police just giving an update in Houston where they say shots were fired inside Joel Osteen's mega church, Lakewood. One of the victims is only five years old and now in critical condition.

Also, at this hour, U.S. Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin is back at Walter Reed Medical Center. The Pentagon says he had a bladder issue, emergent bladder issue.


At this point, he has not been admitted to the hospital.