Cops Confront Shooter at Joel Osteen’s Megachurch in New Body Cam Footage

Houston Police Department
Houston Police Department

Texas authorities on Monday released footage capturing the harrowing moments before, during, and after a woman walked into celebrity pastor Joel Osteen’s Houston megachurch and opened fire earlier this month, an incident that ended in her death at the hands of two off-duty officers. Two other people were injured in the attack, including the shooter’s 7-year-old son, who remains hospitalized in critical condition.

The video, posted on the Houston Police Department's Critical Incidents YouTube channel, shows Genesse Ivonne Moreno, 36, arriving at Lakewood Church in a white SUV, a young child trailing in her wake. From there, body-camera footage taken from the pair of off-duty officers at the church and a Harris County sheriff’s deputy, shows police on the scene scrambling to respond as shots begin to ring out, scattering confused and terrified parishioners.

One angle catches an officer praying as she moves towards the gunfire. “We need to approach. Father God, just be with us,” she says. “Forgive us our sins.”

At one point, the boy can be seen with his hands clapped over his ears, as if to protect from the cacophonous ringing caused by the gunshots. Later, Moreno can be seen walked down the carpeted hallway. “You killed my son,” she says. “All I need is help. I need help, that’s all.”

Moreno, toting what police have identified as an AR-style rifle, also yells at another point that she has “a fucking bomb” and warns the officers to stand down. An officer later reports in the footage that it looks like Moreno does have “something strapped to her chest.” No explosives were found at the scene.

After security video shows Moreno collapse, having been fatally shot, the officers move towards her and her son. The boy, whose image is blurred, lies motionless on the carpeted floor. “We have a kid that’s down, about three bullets to his head,” one officer reports. (A 57-year-old bystander was also shot in the hip and has since been released from the hospital.)

The 26 minutes of footage was released by the Houston Police Department alongside an update on the injured boy’s condition. “Our hearts are heavy as 7-year-old Samuel Moreno continues to fight for his life,” Police Chief Troy Finner said in a statement. “No child should ever be placed in that position. He needs our support and prayers.”

It was unclear from the footage alone who fired the bullet that hit Samuel. Officials did not offer further details on the matter on Monday, with Finner acknowledging only that there were still “unanswered questions” amid the ongoing investigation. He said at a news conference over the weekend that he was “going to put that blame” on Moreno for putting Samuel in danger.

Authorities have also failed to share any suspected motive for the shooting. Houston Police Commander Chris Hassig previously said that Moreno’s rifle had a “Palestine” sticker on its butt plate, and that she had a string of previous arrests and a documented history of mental health issues.

Hassig also noted that Moreno’s ex-husband is Jewish, and that “might possibly be where all of this stems from.

“We do believe that there was a familial dispute that has taken place between her ex-husband and her ex-husband’s family,” he said. “And some of those individuals are Jewish.”

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