Shooter at Joel Osteen’s megachurch used rifle bearing the word ‘Palestine,’ officials say

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The woman who was shot and killed Sunday afternoon at Joel Osteen’s Lakewood Church in Houston was carrying an assault style-type rifle with “Palestine” written on it, according to two senior law enforcement officials briefed on the matter.

The shooter, identified as Genesse Ivonne Moreno, 36, also made several statements during the course of the incident, but the officials declined to describe them. Law enforcement officials added that Moreno previously went by another, male name.

Moreno also brought her young son with her to the church, the officials said. During the incident, the shooter stated she had a bomb, but a search of the vehicle showed there were no explosive devices, officials said.

Law enforcement records show the shooter had at least six prior arrests since 2005, including unlawful carrying of a weapon, which she pleaded guilty to; evading arrest; and assault on a public official, which was pleaded to a lesser charge.   

Lakewood Shooting
Houston Police and Harris County Sheriffs officers outside Lakewood Church in Houston after a reported shooting on Feb. 11, 2024.Karen Warren / Houston Chronicle via Getty Images

Police have publicly stated that two off-duty officers at the church returned fire, striking the shooter and killing her at about 1:50 p.m. The child was also struck during the incident and was in critical condition.

Police Chief Troy Finner said at a news conference Sunday that the boy was around 5 years old.

He added that one of the off-duty officers is an agent with the Texas Alcoholic Beverage Commission and the other is a Houston police officer.

Officials are investigating a wide range of possible motives given the writing on the weapon, but cannot yet conclusively say what led to the shooting. They have not ruled out terrorism or hate crime-related motives.

The shooting happened between services as people were arriving for Spanish service, Osteen said. About 45,000 people attend services there every week, making it one of the largest megachurches in the country.

Osteen said he was “in a fog” after the violence and that he was keeping the injured in his prayers.

“We don’t understand why all these things happen,” the pastor told reporters Sunday. “But we know God’s in control.”

In a subsequent statement on Facebook, Osteen urged his congregation to lean on their faith to cope with anguish.

“Our community is devastated by today’s events and grateful for the swift actions of law enforcement,” he said. “Together, we will rise above this tragedy and stand firm in our commitment to love and support one another.”

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