Lakewood Church: Armed woman killed in Joel Osteen Texas megachurch shootout (2024)

  • Published

By Chloe Kim

BBC News

A woman clad in a trench coat and accompanied by a child opened fire in a crowded Texas megachurch before she was gunned down by security, officials say.

The suspect, named by police as Genesse Ivonne Moreno, 36, was with her seven-year-old son, who was critically injured in the Houston shootout.

Investigators said the attacker had "Palestine" written on the butt of her rifle and they had uncovered antisemitic writings.

But they said the motive is unclear.

A 57-year-old man was shot in the hip during the incident and has since been discharged from hospital.

The gunwoman's unnamed son was shot in the head during the shootout and is currently "fighting for his life", said police. It is not clear who shot the boy.

The church was in the midst of a live stream service when the first gunshots rang out. Pastor Jorge Basave at first continued on with the recording, telling the Houston Chronicle he wanted to project calm.

"I was worried my fear would be contagious," he said.

Police said the suspect used an AR-15 rifle for the attack. She also had a .22 calibre rifle, but did not fire that weapon.

Officials told Monday's news conference the attacker has a history of mental health issues and was placed under an emergency detention order in 2016.

Public records indicate Moreno also has a long record of arrests and convictions on assault, drug, and weapons charges.

She previously went by several other aliases, including Jeffery Escalante, and is variously listed as male and female in official records. Police described her in the news conference as a Hispanic female.

Image source, Texas Department of Public Safety

Police said they believe she had a familial dispute with her ex-husband's family, some of whom are Jewish.

The site of the shooting was Lakewood Church, one of the largest congregations in the country, run by the renowned televangelist pastor Joel Osteen.

Moreno's connection to the church is still being investigated, but the KHOU local television station reports her mother attended Lakewood.

The outlet added that staff at the church may have been questioned during Moreno's contentious divorce and child custody proceedings, Montgomery County court records indicate.

Police said the suspect pulled up to the west side of the building in a white vehicle at 13:53 local time (19:53 GMT) just as a Spanish-speaking service was about to begin.

She displayed her weapon to an unarmed security guard, who proceeded to let her inside, and she then opened fire inside the church's hallway at about 13:55.

A 28-year-old Houston police officer and a 38-year-old agent with the Texas Alcoholic Beverage Commission (TABC), both of whom were off-duty and had been hired as church security, returned fire.

Multiple rounds were fired in the ensuing gun battle, officials said, before the attacker was "neutralised" and pronounced dead at 14:07.

Houston Police Chief Troy Finner said Moreno was seen spraying "some type of substance on the ground", but investigators have determined it posed no risk.

After being shot, she told the two officers there was a bomb, but a search by law enforcement found no explosives in her backpack or vehicle.

TABC chairman Kevin Lilly identified his agency's officer as Adrian Herrera.

Praising the duo for holding their ground in the face of gunfire, he said: "What happened yesterday was the personification of heroism and valour.

"They were a wall that existed between worshippers and terror. Between freedom of religion and murder."

Who is Joel Osteen and what is Lakewood Church?

Mr Osteen, a 60-year-old televangelist, took the helm of one of the most popular megachurches in the country after his father and Lakewood's founding pastor died.

The 16,000-seat church used to be home to the Houston Rockets, an NBA team, before undergoing renovations in the early 2000s.

Under Mr Osteen's leadership, the church has grown in size and reputation, with 45,000 parishioners attending weekly services in person, in addition to thousands who watch online and on television.

It is the third-largest church in the country, according to the Hartford Institute for Religion Research.

Image source, Reuters

"Our community is devastated by today's events and grateful for the swift actions of law enforcement," Mr Osteen said in a statement.

"In the face of such darkness, we must hold onto our faith and remember evil will not prevail."

Known for promoting what is called the prosperity gospel, Mr Osteen often preaches that financial blessings are gifts from God and has published many books promising that faith will increase one's wealth.

Related Topics

  • US gun violence
  • Texas
  • United States

More on this story

  • When parents get the blame for a child's mass shooting

    • Published

      15 March

  • Six people shot at school in Iowa on first day back

    • Published

      5 January

Lakewood Church: Armed woman killed in Joel Osteen Texas megachurch shootout (2024)


What happened in Joel Osteen's church in Texas? ›

Authorities say the woman entered the church between Sunday services and began firing an AR-style rifle. Moreno did not reach the main sanctuary and was killed after exchanging gunfire with two off-duty officers. In addition to Moreno's son, another man was wounded.

What is the net worth of Joel Osteen? ›

Estimated net worth: US$100 million

Preacher, televangelist and author Joel Osteen is best known for being the pastor of Lakewood Church, founded by his father in Houston, Texas.

What happened at Lakewood Church on February 11th? ›

The woman entered the enormous Lakewood Church – a building with a 16,000-person capacity that was previously an arena for the NBA's Houston Rockets -- with the boy who was later hurt in the shootout with police. A man in his 50s was also wounded.

What was the motive behind the Lakewood Church shooting? ›

Officers believe Moreno was involved in a domestic dispute with with her ex-husband and his family, some of whom are Jewish, Hassig said. Officers also recovered a . 22 calibre rifle from Moreno's backpack that she brought into the church. Law enforcement said it is too early to identify a potential motive.

What happened to the money found in Joel Osteen's church? ›

Burglary and theft investigators responded and an undisclosed amount of money was inventoried, documented and left in the custody of the church since it had been found on Lakewood's property, the police said.

Who is the richest pastor in the United States? ›

Copeland has amassed significant wealth during his career and has referred to himself as a "very wealthy man". In 2021, Copeland was claimed by some sources to be the wealthiest pastor in America, with a net worth of $750 million.

What was Billy Graham's estate worth? ›

Graham's estimated $25 million net worth is equal to that of Rick Warren, but lower than pastors such as Joel Osteen ($40 million) and Kenneth Copeland ($760 million).

Who was the black pastor at Lakewood Church? ›

John Gray, was previously an associate pastor under Joel Osteen at Lakewood Church in Houston, Texas and as of 2020, he still preaches there regularly.

What happened at Lakewood Church Houston, TX? ›

Two off-duty officers, serving as security at the church, killed Moreno after she pointed an AR-15 at them. Moreno's seven-year-old son was shot in the exchange of gunfire. The child was taken to the Texas Children's Hospital in critical condition. Moreno was shot and killed four minutes after entering the church.

What happened at Lakewood Church, TX? ›

Houston Police on Monday released body camera and surveillance footage of a shooting that left a woman dead and her son critically injured after she opened fire inside celebrity pastor Joel Osteen's megachurch in early February.

What is the largest church in Texas? ›

Please improve this article by adding secondary or tertiary sources. Gateway Church is a non-denominational, charismatic Christian multi-site megachurch based in Southlake, Texas, near Fort Worth. It estimates its weekly attendance at 100,000 as of 2022. and is one of the largest churches in the United States.

What religion is Lakewood Church? ›

Lakewood Church
CountryUnited States
DenominationNon-denominational, Evangelical, Charismatic Christianity, Pentecostal
Weekly attendance45,000
11 more rows

Why was there money in the walls at Lakewood Church? ›

Background: Seven years ago Lakewood Church reported that $200,000 in cash and $400,000 in checks had been stolen from a church safe. Recently a plumber found the stolen money behind a toilet in the wall while doing restoration. This one seems easy.

What was found at Joel Osteen church? ›

Sierra Juarez is a fact-checker at Texas Monthly. A plumber found cash, checks, and money orders in a bathroom wall of the Houston church of celebrity pastor Joel Osteen that were connected to a $600,000 burglary in 2014.

How many people attend Joel Osteen's church in Houston Texas? ›

An estimated 45,000 people attend services at the church every week. The church has four weekly English-language services and two Spanish-language services.

Top Articles
Latest Posts
Article information

Author: Neely Ledner

Last Updated:

Views: 5908

Rating: 4.1 / 5 (62 voted)

Reviews: 93% of readers found this page helpful

Author information

Name: Neely Ledner

Birthday: 1998-06-09

Address: 443 Barrows Terrace, New Jodyberg, CO 57462-5329

Phone: +2433516856029

Job: Central Legal Facilitator

Hobby: Backpacking, Jogging, Magic, Driving, Macrame, Embroidery, Foraging

Introduction: My name is Neely Ledner, I am a bright, determined, beautiful, adventurous, adventurous, spotless, calm person who loves writing and wants to share my knowledge and understanding with you.