CRIME, POLICE + COURTS

Joel Osteen’s Lakewood Church resumes Sunday service one week after shooting that left 7-year-old boy injured

Feb 18, 2024, 3:00 PM

A police officer stands inside Lakewood Church, Sunday, February 18, in Houston....

A police officer stands inside Lakewood Church, Sunday, February 18, in Houston. Pastor Joel Osteen welcomed worshippers back for the first time since a woman with an AR-style rifle opened fire in between services at his Texas megachurch last Sunday

Originally Published: 18 FEB 24 16:12 ET

(CNN) — Services at Joel Osteen’s Lakewood Church in Houston resumed Sunday morning with a large security presence, one week after a woman accompanied by her 7-year-old son walked into the megachurch armed with a rifle.

“Our God is still on the throne. Our God is still in control. I love that, you know, no weapon formed against us is gonna prosper,” Osteen said to cheers during the first service of the morning, which was live streamed. “God’s got us covered.”

The Texas megachurch announced it would open its doors Sunday for a “special service of healing, prayer and unity” after Genesse Ivonne Moreno, 36, began shooting upon walking into the famed Lakewood Church in between services on February 11.

Moreno, wearing a trench coat, wounded a 47-year-old man before turning the weapon toward law enforcement officers, who shot and killed her in self defense, authorities said.

Houston Police Chief Troy Finner, who spoke at a news conference Sunday afternoon, clarified that the police department previously incorrectly reported the age of the victim, who attended the service Sunday morning, as 57 years old.

Moreno’s child was shot in the head during the shooting, Finner said last week. It remains unclear who fired the shot that injured the 7-year-old, who remained hospitalized in critical condition on Sunday.

Finner said video footage of the incident will help determine who injured the child. “If our officer or if an agent, or whomever, shot that kid, I put that responsibility square[ly] on that suspect for bringing that kid in this tragic event,” Finner said Sunday.

Osteen prays for shooter’s family

The famed megachurch was filled with attendees on Sunday – some of whom wore “Lakewood Strong” shirts – as Joel and Victoria Osteen thanked them for returning. Joel Osteen was visibly emotional and said he hadn’t planned on crying as he walked onto the stage.

“You know what? It’s not tears of sadness, it’s tears of gratefulness for what God has done for us,” Osteen said. The pastor and televangelist later prayed for Moreno, referring to her as “the deceased woman,” and Moreno’s family.

“Lord, I just ask that you… heal the hurts in that family,” he said.

Investigators are still trying to determine what led Moreno to open fire at the church last week, including whether her mental health issues or a recent argument with her ex-husband’s family could have factored into the rampage.

Moreno’s mother-in-law, Walli Carranza, wrote Thursday on Facebook that the shooter had a history of mental health challenges and was allowed to own a gun despite this.

Osteen said during a news conference following the shooting that the incident’s timing likely prevented additional injuries, CNN previously reported.

“I can only imagine if it would have happened during the 11 o’clock service,” he said last Sunday.

During his first sermon at Lakewood Church since the shooting, Osteen said he never dreamed such an incident would unfold at the church his parents started 65 years ago.

“I just never, never thought we’d be dealing with this,” he said.

Osteen described the experience last week as “traumatic.” The pastor recalled he had just finished meeting with some visitors and returned to his office to change when someone informed him of an incident.

“I got back in my room, and like 20 seconds later, I got a text,” he told the congregation. “I looked down, it was the police chief … and he [texted] two words – ‘you okay?’ And I texted back … ’I’m okay, but I don’t know what’s going on.’”

He thanked the church’s security team, which flanked the stage as Osteen lightheartedly commented, “I feel safe, stay with us a minute there. Let me preach like this from now on,” while the congregation laughed before Osteen started a group prayer with joined hands.

Police: Footage of shooting to be released within 30 days

The show of resilience on Sunday came a week after the fear that unfolded in the third-largest church in the United States, leaving a young boy with a serious head injury, his grandmother shared on Facebook.

The child, who Carranza said went into cardiac arrest multiple times, has lost “a portion of his frontal lobe,” according to her post. “Half of his right skull has to be surgically removed during two surgeries done in less than 24 hours,” she wrote.

Investigators have said Moreno used multiple aliases of both male and female names, and was put under an order for emotional detention in 2016, CNN previously reported.

Police say her mental health history is documented, and Texas Department of Public Safety records show she had a string of arrests spanning two decades including possession of marijuana, an assault, illegal possession of a weapon, resisting arrest and a forgery charge.

The motive may never be clear in this case, according to Finner. Houston Police are reviewing footage from the incident that will be released within 30 days, as per department policy, the chief said.

CNN’s Christina Maxouris, Lauren Mascarenhas and John Miller contributed to this report.

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Joel Osteen’s Lakewood Church resumes Sunday service one week after shooting that left 7-year-old boy injured