Boy critically injured in Texas megachurch shooting is son of suspect in attack, police say
HOUSTON– The young boy seriously injured in a shooting at a Texas megachurch on Sunday was the son of the gunman, authorities said Monday.
Police identified the shooter as 36-year-old Genenesse 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, described by authorities as a 7-year-old, remained in critical condition Monday with a gunshot wound to the head. On Sunday he was described as a 5-year-old.
A motive for the attack that sent worshipers rushing to safety between busy services at celebrity pastor Joel Osteen’s Lakewood Church remains unclear.
Moreno was killed after pointing the gun at security officers, authorities said.
In addition to the boy, authorities said a man in his 50s was also injured in the shooting.
Lakewood is regularly attended by 45,000 people per week, making it the third-largest megachurch in the US, according to the Hartford Institute for Religion Research.
Osteen said the violence could have been worse if the shooting had occurred during the earlier and larger Sunday morning service.
Houston Police Chief Troy Finner said at a news conference Sunday that the gunman was wearing a trench coat and backpack and was armed with a long gun when they entered the church.
Moreno began shooting before he was 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 gunman told officers after he was shot that there was a bomb, but a search turned up no explosives. The bomb report was also mentioned in the search warrant affidavit, which stated that the gunman was carrying a “yellow colored rope and substances consistent with the manufacture of explosives.”
Finner and other authorities on the scene praised the officers, who have not been identified, for taking down the gunman.
Moreno “had a long gun, and it could have been worse,” Finner said. “But they stepped up and did their job.”
It is unclear how the boy, who was taken to a children’s hospital in Houston, was struck by gunfire.
When asked if the boy was shot by one of the off-duty officers who fired back at the suspect, Finner said he didn’t want to speculate, but added, “That suspect put that baby in danger.”
The gunfire startled the worshipers.
Alan Guity, whose family is from Honduras, has been a member of the Church since 1998. He said he heard gunshots while resting in the church’s sanctuary while his mother worked as an usher.
“Boom, boom, boom, boom. And I shouted, ‘Mom!’” he said.
Guity, 35, said he ran to his mother and they both lay flat on the ground as the gunfire continued. They prayed and lay on the ground for about five minutes until someone told them it was safe to leave the building. As he was led outside, Guity saw people scared and crying and looking for loved ones.
Osteen, 60, took the helm of Lakewood Church after John Osteen, his father and the church’s founder, died 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 Unleash Your Full Potential.”
His television services reach about 100 countries and the renovation of his church’s arena cost almost $100 million.
This story corrects the spelling of Genenesse Ivonne Moreno’s middle name. The shooter’s middle name is Ivonne, not Ivonna.