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Houston Megachurch to Have Service after Deadly Shooting

Sunday, 18 February 2024 08:59 AM EST

A Houston megachurch was set to have a special service on Sunday, a week after a woman opened fire in one of its hallways before being gunned down by security officers.

Lakewood Church, run by celebrity pastor Joel Osteen, has not had services since the Feb. 11 shooting that sent worshippers scrambling for safety.

Police say Genesse Moreno, 36, entered the church between Sunday services with her 7-year-old son and began firing. Moreno did not reach the main sanctuary and was killed after exchanging gunfire with two off-duty officers. Two people were wounded in the shooting, including Moreno’s son, who was shot in the head and remained hospitalized.

Questions about the shooting remain unanswered, including Moreno’s motive and details about how she obtained the AR-style rifle she used.

Moreno’s former mother-in-law, Walli Carranza, told The Associated Press that Moreno had long struggled with mental illness. Carranza said she believed systemic failures, as well as lax gun laws, ultimately led to the shooting.

In a video message posted Wednesday on social media, Osteen said the special 11 a.m. CST service on Sunday was being held to celebrate a "time of healing and restoration."

"It’s been a difficult week, something we never dreamed we would have to deal with. But we look back now and we see the faithfulness of God and how he protected and watched over us," Osteen said.

The shooting should not prevent people from gathering together, Osteen said.

"There are forces that would like for us to shrink back and live in fear, afraid of what might happen at the school or the grocery store, at work, or even at church. But we are not people of fear. We are people of faith. God has us in the palm of his hand, and this is not the time to shrink back," Osteen said.

Police have not said what prompted Moreno to go to Lakewood Church and begin shooting.

Church spokesman Don Iloff, Jr. said Wednesday records show Moreno "sporadically" attended services at Lakewood for a couple of years, but there were no records of her being at the church after 2022.

Carranza said she tried to alert authorities and others about Moreno’s mental health struggles, and Carranza's attorney in 2020 and 2021 sent emails to Lakewood Church asking for assistance with intervening in Moreno’s struggles.

Church officials had not found records of the emails but they were still looking, Iloff said.

Texas lacks a so-called "red flag" law, which generally allows law enforcement or family members to ask a judge to order the seizure or surrender of guns from someone who is deemed dangerous, often because of mental health concerns or threats of violence.

Moreno used both male and female aliases, but investigators found through interviews and past police reports that Moreno identified as female, according to Houston Police Commander Chris Hassig.

Osteen, 60, preaches to about 45,000 people a week at the church located in a former basketball arena and he is known to millions more through his televised sermons. Lakewood is the third-largest megachurch in the U.S., according to the Hartford Institute for Religion Research.

Copyright 2024 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed without permission.


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A Houston megachurch was set to have a special service on Sunday, a week after a woman opened fire in one of its hallways before being gunned down by security officers.
church shooting, joel osteen, texas service
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2024-59-18
Sunday, 18 February 2024 08:59 AM
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