Videos Show Houston Police Confront Megachurch Shooter

Feb. 27, 2024
Over 50 rounds were fired in a shootout between law enforcement officials and an armed woman who entered Joel Osteen's Lakewood Church in Houston with her son.

By Nicole Hensley

Source Houston Chronicle

Police have released nearly a half-hour of surveillance and body camera footage from the Lakewood Church shooting showing an armed woman entering the building with her son, leading to the shootout that left her dead and the child critically wounded.

Genesse Moreno, 36, was killed the afternoon of Feb. 11 in an exchange of gunfire with an off-duty agent of the Texas Alcoholic Beverage Commission who was working security at pastor Joel Osteen's Houston megachurch. Police said Moreno first exchanged fire with a uniformed off-duty Houston Police Department officer who confronted her after a church volunteer spotted her.

At one point, Moreno can be heard yelling "You killed my son" and saying "All I need is help" in body camera footage as the officer sheltered around the corner.

The footage, released Monday from church security videos and police body cameras, shows the close call the city's largest church had with a shooter with ample firepower ahead of a Spanish language service. In the wake of the shooting, gun control advocates and local politicians have repeated demands for red flag laws in Texas. Moreno, who legally purchased the guns used in the shooting, had run-ins with law enforcement in the past but lacked a felony arrest, which would have shown up on a federal background check.

Police released the alarming footage well before the 30-day mark, as required for critical incidents in which officers fire their weapons.

Keith Seafous, an HPD assistant chief, noted that the cameras on one of the department's officers activated late, while another did not activate at all.

The TABC agent, who was not wearing a body camera with his black-and-white suit, was among those who confronted Moreno and opened fire. He ordered her to put her weapon down when she HPD officer Christopher Moreno, out of sight from the shooter, frantically repeated "Lakewood church" to dispatchers and warned of a woman with a rifle as gunfire reverberated throughout the lobby. The officer told dispatchers that he was "pinned down against a wall."

The TABC agent opened fire, fatally striking Genesse Moreno when she did not comply with orders, police said.

The HPD officer finally emerged from his hideaway after the final round of gunfire. More than 50 rounds had been fired between Moreno and the law enforcement officials who confronted her, the video shows.

The footage does not show whose gunfire may have struck Moreno's 7-year-old son, who Police Chief Troy Finner said remains hospitalized and fighting for his life.

The officer's camera caught sight of the boy lying prone on the carpet and someone then dragging him away. A censor bubble concealed his head, where he had been shot. His mother's body was down a hallway.

The footage also showed the initial confusion over the aftermath of the shooting and who the shooter was.

A man approached her body and said, "Ma'am, where you shot at?"

The officer, struggling to put on evidence gloves, told him to back off and said, "That's the shooter."

The same man appeared to grab Moreno's weapon and handed it to the officer, to his dismay.

Before the shooting, security cameras show Moreno parking her vehicle outside the church, scooping her child out of the back seat and walking toward the entrance in a tan trench coat. She had one long gun concealed under the jacket and another in a bag.

She left her car's hazard lights on as she went inside. Her son, who was shot along with a church volunteer, walked alongside her, according to surveillance footage from outside the church.

Moreno encountered locked doors leading to the church's sanctuary prior to the shooting, Seafous said.

Her entrance, with church-goers milling about the lobby, went unnoticed for about half a minute, footage from the lobby shows. In the same video, which lacked audio, people soon scattered and ran for cover.

A video from another HPD officer showed her praying over Moreno's son as others inched their way toward the shooter's body.

"God, please bring him close to you," the officer said.

The child, who has undergone multiple brain surgeries to have a front portion of his frontal lobe removed, was taken off a ventilator over the weekend and is "breathing well," relatives said. Another surgery is needed, though his family does not know if he will ever live a normal life.


(c)2024 the Houston Chronicle

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