Boy critically injured in Texas megachurch shooting is son of suspect in attack, police say

By The Associated Press
Posted 12:34PM on Monday 12th February 2024 ( 5 months ago )

HOUSTON (AP) — The young boy who was critically injured in a shooting at a Texas megachurch on Sunday was the son of the shooter, authorities said Monday.

Police identified the shooter as 36-year-old Genesse Ivonne Moreno, and said at a news conference that Moreno had a history of mental illness, including being placed under emergency detention in 2016.

The boy, who authorities described as a 7-year-old, remained in critical condition Monday with a gunshot wound to the head. He had been described as a 5-year-old on Sunday.

A motive for the attack that sent worshippers rushing for safety in between busy services at celebrity pastor Joel Osteen's Lakewood Church remains unclear.

Moreno was killed after pointing the weapon at the security officers, authorities said.

In addition to the boy, a man in his 50s was also injured in the shooting, according to authorities.

Lakewood is regularly attended by 45,000 people weekly, making it the third-largest megachurch in the U.S., according to the Hartford Institute for Religion Research.

Osteen said the violence could have been worse if the shooting had happened during the earlier and larger late Sunday morning service.

Houston Police Chief Troy Finner at a news conference Sunday said the shooter wore a trenchcoat and backpack and was armed with a long rifle when they entered the church.

Moreno began shooting before being confronted by two off-duty officers — a Houston police officer and a Texas Alcoholic Beverage Commission agent, who returned fire, Finner said.

Finner said the shooter told officers after being shot there was a bomb, but a search found no explosives. The declaration of a bomb was also noted in the search warrant affidavit, which said the shooter had a “yellow color rope and substances consistent with the manufacture of explosive devices."

Finner and other authorities at the scene praised the officers, who have not been identified, for taking down the shooter.

Moreno “had a long gun, and it could have been worse,” Finner said. “But they stepped up and did their job.”

It was unclear how the boy, who was taken to a Houston children’s hospital, was struck by gunfire.

When asked whether the boy was shot by one of the off-duty officers returning fire on the suspect, Finner said he did not want to speculate but added: “That suspect put that baby in danger.”

The gunfire startled worshippers.

Alan Guity, whose family is from Honduras, has been a member of the church since 1998. He said he heard gunshots while resting inside the church’s sanctuary as his mother was working as an usher.

“Boom, boom, boom, boom. And I yelled, ‘Mom!’” he said.

Guity, 35, said he ran to his mother and they both laid flat on the floor as the gunfire continued. They prayed and stayed on the floor for about five minutes until someone told them it was safe to leave the building. As he was led outside, Guity could see people were afraid and crying and looking for loved ones.

Osteen, 60, took the helm of Lakewood Church after John Osteen, his father and the church’s founding pastor, passed away in 1999. The church has grown dramatically under his leadership.

Osteen is a leader of what is known as the prosperity gospel, a belief that God wants his followers to be wealthy and healthy. He is the author of several best-selling books, including, “Your Best Life Now: 7 Steps to Living at Your Full Potential.”

His televised services reach about 100 countries and renovating his church’s arena cost nearly $100 million.


This story corrects the spelling of Genesse Ivonne Moreno's middle name. The shooter's middle name is spelled Ivonne, not Ivonna.

Emergency vehicles line the feeder road outside Lakewood Church during a reported active shooter event, Sunday, Feb. 11, 2024, in Houston. (Kirk Sides/Houston Chronicle via AP)
A woman stands outside Lakewood Church, in Houston, after a reported shooting during a Spanish church service, Sunday, Feb. 11, 2024. (Karen Warren/Houston Chronicle via AP)
In this screen grab taken from video provided by KTRK-TV ABC13, pastor Joel Osteen speaks to the media after a shooting at Lakewood Church, in Houston, Sunday, Feb. 11, 2024. (KTRK-TV ABC13 via AP)

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