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Woman firing gun at Joel Osteen's Lakewood Church killed; child in critical condition

Pastor Osteen: 'We must hold onto our faith and remember evil will not prevail. God will guide us through the darkest of times.'

Pastor Joel Osteen leads his Lakewood Church congregation in prayer in Houston, Texas, on Sept. 22, 2013.
Pastor Joel Osteen leads his Lakewood Church congregation in prayer in Houston, Texas, on Sept. 22, 2013. | The Christian Post

Updated at 1:30 p.m. EST on Feb. 12, 2024: Police in Houston, Texas, confirmed Monday that the individual who carried out an attempted shooting at Pastor Joel Osteen’s Lakewood Church on Sunday afternoon was Genesse Ivonne Moreno. Despite using multiple aliases, including Jeffrey Escalante, investigators found Moreno has consistently been identified as a female throughout their investigation. The suspect had a lengthy criminal history as well as a mental health history. The individual walked into the church and pointed an AR-15 at off-duty officers who shot the suspect, who later died on the scene. The word "Palestine” was written on the suspect's rifle. 

Read the original report below and updates here, here and here

Updated at 8:12 p.m. EST on Feb. 11, 2024

Members of Pastor Joel Osteen’s Lakewood Church were overcome with shock on Sunday afternoon after a woman described as wearing a trench coat and backpack and accompanied by a young child began shooting a rifle inside the church. She was shot dead by two off-duty officers. 

The woman, who has not been identified but was described as between 30 and 35 years old, entered the Houston church just before the start of the 2 p.m. Spanish language service and was accompanied by a child. 

Houston Police Chief Troy Finner said during a Sunday press conference that the two off-duty officers — a Texas Alcoholic Beverage Commission agent and a Houston Police Department officer — shot and killed the armed woman. The child, identified as a 5-year-old boy, was critically injured and transported to Texas Children's Hospital.

A 57-year-old bystander was shot in the leg and is reportedly in stable condition. 

In a statement shared with The Christian Post at 7 p.m. Central time, Pastor Osteen said: 

Our community is devastated by today's events and grateful for the swift actions of law enforcement. May the healing hands of God touch the lives of everyone involved and provide comfort during this difficult time. 

In the face of such darkness, we must hold onto our faith and remember evil will not prevail. God will guide us through the darkest of times. Together, we will rise above this tragedy and stand firm in our commitment to love and support one another. 

In times like these, our faith is tested, but it is also strengthened. We don't always understand why things like this happen, but we know that God is in control. 

Please join me in continued prayer for healing and peace.

In a public statement on X at around 2:30 p.m. Central time on Sunday, Lakewood Church announced: “There is an active situation involving shots fired at Lakewood. Law enforcement is on the scene. That is all the information we have at this time. Please pray for Lakewood and our community. We’re devastated.” 

Finner said during the press conference that the woman entered the church at 1:53 p.m. local time armed with a long rifle and wearing a trench coat and backpack with the child in tow. The police chief added that the incident could have been much worse had it not been for the swift action of the off-duty officers.

"She (the shooter) is deceased on the scene," Finner added. "Unfortunately, the 5-year-old kid was hit and is in critical condition at a local hospital. There was a 57-year-old man who didn't have anything to do with it ... he was shot in the leg. He's seeking treatment in the hospital. So let's all pray for each and every one of them."

The police chief said that when the woman went down after being shot, she claimed to have a bomb, leading officers to search her backpack and vehicle, but they found no explosives. Officers also searched the church, including the 16,000-seat sanctuary.

Finner said the shooter was also seen "spraying an unidentifiable substance," which required the assistance of a hazmat team with the Houston Fire Department. Fire Chief Samuel Peña said they found “nothing of concern.”

During the press conference on Sunday, Pastor Osteen agreed with the police chief that the incident could have been much worse had the shooter not been stopped. He added that the church was "devastated," and he felt like he was in a "fog" amid the aftermath but would be praying for the young boy, the deceased woman and her family, and the 57-year-old man who was also wounded. 

"There are forces of evil ... but the forces of God are stronger than that. We're going to do what God has called us to do: lift people up and give hope to the world."

Also speaking at the press conference, Houston Mayor John Whitmire lamented, “It’s unfortunate that on the day we want to attend church and watch America’s number one sports event, we find ourselves gathered here to respond to this tragedy. We want Houstonians to know they are being protected by their first responders.”

Texas Gov. Greg Abbott also reacted to the shooting, writing on X: "Our hearts are with those impacted by today’s tragic shooting in Houston. Places of worship are sacred. I have spoken with Mayor Whitmire and offered the full support of Texas to bring this criminal to justice. Join Cecilia and me in praying for the Lakewood Church community."

Lakewood Church has a weekly attendance of around 45,000 people. Pastor Osteen and members of the church recently celebrated paying off a $100 million loan obtained 20 years ago to purchase and renovate the building that previously served as the arena for the Houston Rockets basketball team.

This is a developing story and some details initially reported might turn out to be wrong. CP's coverage will focus on statements made by police officials, other authorities and Lakewood Church. This story will be updated as new details emerge. 

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