Shooting at Texas Megachurch Unearths Mental Illness and Antisemitic Motives

HOUSTON, TEXAS – A gunman with a history of mental illness opened fire at a Texas megachurch on Sunday before being killed by security officers, authorities said Monday. The shooter critically injured their 7-year-old son in the attack at Lakewood Church, the church of celebrity pastor Joel Osteen.

Genesse Ivonne Moreno, 36, was identified as the shooter during a news conference, according to Houston Police Commander Chris Hassig. The shooter had a history of mental illness, including being placed under emergency detention in 2016, but no additional details were provided.

Officials said it was too soon to identify a motive for the shooting, but they were looking into a dispute involving the shooter and the family of the shooter’s ex-husband. In addition, investigators found antisemitic writings by the shooter.

The rifle used in the shooting had a “Palestine” sticker on the buttstock. The shooter was described as a “lone wolf” who was not part of a larger group.

“We believe (Moreno) acted alone,” Hassig said.

The shooting occurred just before a service at one of the largest congregations in the United States. The boy and the shooter entered the church building after the shooter pointed a gun at an unarmed security guard and began firing once inside.

The shooter was killed by off-duty Houston police officer Christopher Moreno and Texas Alcoholic Beverage Commission Agent Adrian Herrera. The gunfire did not spill into the main sanctuary, and none of the worshippers were injured.

Lakewood is regularly attended by 45,000 people weekly, making it the third-largest megachurch in the U.S. Joel Osteen, the church’s pastor, is a leader of the prosperity gospel, a belief that God wants his followers to be wealthy and healthy. His televised services reach about 100 countries, and renovations to his church’s arena cost nearly $100 million.

The gunfire terrified worshippers, and Osteen’s statements indicated that the situation could have been much worse if the shooting had happened during the earlier and larger late Sunday morning service.