The Sunday service at Lakewood Church concluded as usual, with pastors Joel Osteen and Victoria Osteen greeting visitors on the second floor of the massive 16,000-seat sanctuary. Minutes later, chaos erupted as an armed individual approached the church, triggering a swift response from off-duty police officers serving as security guards.
According to Donald Iloff Jr., a senior executive at Lakewood Church and Joel Osteen’s brother-in-law, Joel was still inside the building moments before the shooter, identified as Genesse Ivonne Moreno, arrived. Moreno, accompanied by her 7-year-old son, attempted to enter the church but was intercepted by security personnel.
The situation quickly escalated as Moreno opened fire inside the church. In a courageous response, off-duty officers Christopher Moreno and Adrian Herrera returned fire, ultimately neutralizing the threat. Moreno was pronounced dead at the scene, with authorities discovering a .22 caliber rifle inside her backpack.
Tragically, Moreno’s son sustained critical injuries during the incident, with his condition remaining precarious at Texas Children’s Hospital. Houston Police Chief Troy Finner emphasized the child’s fight for survival during a press conference following the incident.
Christopher Hassig, commander of the Houston Police Department homicide unit, characterized Moreno as a “lone wolf” with a history of mental health issues. Additionally, authorities uncovered concerning writings and paraphernalia suggestive of antisemitic sentiments and political affiliations.
Despite the harrowing events, Iloff commended the swift and decisive actions of the church’s security team, led by a former FBI agent. He highlighted their preparedness and dedication, noting the upcoming reopening of Lakewood Church for its annual medical conference.
While the outcome of Sunday’s tragedy was marred by loss, Iloff emphasized the thwarted intentions of the assailant, attributing it to the effective response of the security personnel. As investigations continue, the focus remains on supporting the affected individuals and ensuring the safety of the congregation as Lakewood Church navigates through this challenging time.