HOUSTON, TEXAS – Two off-duty law enforcement officers in Houston apprehended a woman who opened fire on Sunday at Lakewood Church, one of the largest evangelical churches in the US, led by televangelist Joel Osteen, police said.
The woman, identified as 36-year-old Genesse Moreno, entered the megachurch shortly before 2 pm local time, armed with a long rifle and accompanied by a child, and began firing, Houston Police Chief Troy Finner told reporters on Sunday. Moreno had a history of mental illness and “antisemitic writings,” according to law enforcement officials.
Two off-duty law enforcement officers exchanged fire with and killed Moreno shortly before 2 pm local time in the hallway of the church as worshipers were arriving for a Spanish language service. The 7-year-old boy, whom officials said was Moreno’s son, was shot in the head and remained in critical condition on Monday.
The off-duty officers’ intervention is credited with preventing a potentially catastrophic tragedy. Houston Police Department homicide division commander Christopher Hassig disclosed that there were “antisemitic writings” found belonging to the suspect. The motive for the shooting is still under investigation, with possible reasons including a family dispute, history of mental illness, and opinions about the war in Gaza.
The shooting at Lakewood Church is a rarity, as the majority of mass shootings in the U.S. are carried out by men. The U.S. Secret Service National Threat Assessment Center found in a 2023 report that 96% of mass attackers from 2016-2020 were male.
Lakewood Church is one of the largest houses of worship in the U.S., seating about 16,000 people in its sanctuary. It is led by Joel Osteen, one of the wealthiest and most popular pastors and prosperity gospel preachers in the United States. According to the church’s website, Osteen’s media broadcasts, podcasts, and radio programming reach millions of US households and audiences worldwide.