Joel Osteen’s Lakewood Church holds first service since shooting that left seven-year-old fighting for life

A motive for the shooting might never be known, police say

Michelle Del Rey
Tuesday 20 February 2024 21:41 GMT
Lakewood congregation runs for cover as gunshots heard inside megachurch

Joel Osteen’s Lakewood Church has held its first service since a woman opened fire on the property last week.

Genesse Ivonne Moreno, 36, was shot dead by off-duty officers working security at the church after she opened fire inside a building as the church was gearing up for its Spanish service. Her seven-year-old son, Samuel Moreno-Carranza, who was with her at the time of the shooting, also suffered a gunshot wound.

His grandmother Walli Carranza recently revealed that he had lost part of his frontal lobe following the incident in a Facebook post.

“He was in cardiac arrest multiple times and no one can determine whether he has significant brain activity,” she said.

Mr Osteen opened up the megachurch on Sunday for a “special service of healing, prayer and unity”, according to a social media post he published announcing the event.

“It’s been a difficult week,” Mr Osteen said. “Something we never dreamed we would have to deal with but we look back now and we see the faithfulness of God. How he protected and watched over us.”

Several members of the congregation wore black shirts that read “Lakewood Strong” in white letters. The church had increased its security presence after the incident.

The pastor later led church members into a prayer for Ms Moreno, who he only referred to as the “deceased woman”, according to CNN. At a different point in the service, he told the story of how he was informed that the shooting had taken place.

He said he’d gone back to his office to change after meeting with visitors when he received a text message from Houston Police Chief Troy Finner.

“You okay?” Mr Finner texted him. Mr Osteen replied, “I’m okay, but I don’t know what’s going on.”

During a news conference on Sunday, Mr Finner said that it’s still unclear who shot the seven-year-old child but said he’d place blame on the boy’s mother even if the off-duty officers were responsible. Video footage of the shooting is set to be released within 30 days.

Ms Carranza, the woman’s mother-in-law, said that Ms Moreno suffered from mental health disorders.

Lakewood is considered to be one of the largest churches in the US with the capacity to seat over 16,000 guests. Mr Osteen became the lead pastor after his father, John Osteen, passed away in 1999.

An investigation into the incident is ongoing, but Mr Finner cautioned that the motive for the shooting might never be known.

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