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Police release video of encounter with shooter at Texas megachurch

Houston police released video from the Houston church shooting as questions still swirl over a motive.
Police release video of encounter with shooter at Texas megachurch
Posted at 8:44 PM, Feb 26, 2024

The gunfire that shattered the calm at pastor Joel Osteen’s megachurch in Houston only lasted about four minutes.

But surveillance video and police body camera footage released Monday, more than two weeks after the Feb. 11 shooting at Lakewood Church, showed the terror of the brief attack: Parishioners scattering, searching for safety in rooms and hallways. Officers drawing guns and taking cover behind walls. And the shooter's 7-year-old son covering his ears during the chaos, and moments later laying on the floor after being shot and wounded.

“Put the weapon down, now,” an officer can be heard shouting before firing his weapon. Another officer cautions: "She may have a bomb.”

Houston police released the roughly 26 minutes of video, which includes the sounds of dozens of bursts of gunfire, as questions remain over the attack that left the shooter, Genesse Moreno, 36, dead and two others injured. Authorities have still not released a motive for the shooting or confirmed who shot Moreno's young son in the head. He remains in critical condition.

Authorities say the woman entered the church between Sunday services and began firing an AR-style rifle. Moreno did not reach the main sanctuary and was killed after exchanging gunfire with two off-duty officers. In addition to Moreno's son, another man was wounded.

The video shows what looked like, from all appearances, a typical Sunday at one of the nation's largest megachurches as people stood around and talked in the hallways outside the nearly 16,000-seat venue.

Minutes earlier, according to security footage from Lakewood Church, Moreno had arrived at the church in a white SUV. She is seen taking her son, Samuel, out of the back seat and walking toward the building. Moreno is wearing a black shirt, striped pants, boots, and a loose-fitting tan-colored trench coat.

Footage from one body camera showed people chatting before suddenly jolting at the sound of the first gunshot. Confused, some began running and then rapid gunfire ensued. Bystanders could be seen taking cover in rooms and hallways.

Off-duty police officers, crouching with handguns out, could be seen as they ran toward the sound of shots being fired.

As one officer moved toward the gunshots with another officer, she said, “We need to approach. Father God, just be with us. Forgive us our sins.”

In the video footage, gunshots could be heard ringing throughout the church building as officers closed in on the source of the shooting.

Additional security video from the church, which didn’t have sound, showed the boy, who appeared to be in a recessed doorway, covering his ears after his mother walked off screen. She then came near him and he reached his arms out to her. When she walks off screen again, the boy appears to follow her.

In the footage, Moreno could be heard saying, “you killed my son.” She later said, “Stand down, I have a bomb. I have a (expletive) bomb.” Gunfire could be heard as she talked.

Images of the child, seen wearing orange pants and a yellow shirt, were blurred after he was wounded in the shooting. Paramedics were summoned by multiple officers, who requested help after seeing the boy laying face-up on the carpeted hallway.

“We have a kid that’s down, about three bullets to his head,” one officer reported over his radio. Another officer knelt and prayed as she approached the boy, saying, “Father God, please bring him close to you."

Houston police have not said who fired the shots that wounded the boy.

In another part of the church, Moreno walked down a hallway, pointing her AR-style rifle. Within two minutes, she was shot multiple times before she collapsed to the ground and was approached by officers, the security security footage shows.

Later, an officer reported over the radio, “Shooter is down. Looks like she’s got something strapped to her chest.” Another officer requested the bomb squad. Authorities later said no explosives were found.

From the time the shooting first began, to when officers said that Moreno had been fatally shot, about four minutes had passed, according to the released footage.

SEE MORE: Shooter at Texas megachurch had mental health issues, police say

Houston Police Chief Troy Finner said in a statement on X, formerly known as Twitter, that the footage “may be unsettling to members of the community.”

“While we know there are unanswered questions, this is still an active investigation,” Finner said. “We will continue to work with our local, state and federal law enforcement partners to thoroughly examine all aspects of this incident.”

Police have told reporters that investigators were still trying to determine Moreno’s motive and learn more about how she obtained the AR-style rifle she used.

In posts on Facebook from last week, Walli Carranza, the boy’s grandmother, said that her grandson, Samuel, was breathing well on his own after doctors had removed a breathing tube. Carranza said Samuel has had six surgeries.

“Will he be able to have any semblance of a normal life? I have no idea,” Carranza wrote in a post on Saturday.

On Sunday, Carranza said Samuel had looked up at her and smiled.

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