‘My faith grew stronger’: Eyewitness after megachurch shooting

(NewsNation) — A 36-year-old Texas woman who opened fire at Joel Osteen’s Houston megachurch Sunday before being killed by security officers had a history of mental illness and had written antisemitic messages, police said Monday.

“I feel like my faith got even stronger. I feel like the Lord really protected us because the fact that none of us died is the Lord’s [work]. Only the Lord could do that,” Paula Laverde said in an interview on NewsNation’s “Dan Abrams Live,” recounting the chaos inside Lakewood Church during the shooting.

The shooter Genesse Ivonne Moreno engaged in a shootout with two off-duty police officers working security at the megachurch just before 2 p.m., Houston police revealed. The incident left Moreno dead and her 7-year-old son critically injured with a gunshot wound to the head.

“We were practicing for the choir, and then I just heard one shot,” Laverde said. “But then there were three more shots, and that’s when I started getting up because I knew it was gunshots.”

Laverde described how she and others began praying fervently for protection as they fled from the gunfire. Despite the terror and confusion, she found solace in her faith.

“I just started praying as I was leaving … praying for people all over the church, we were all glorifying the name of the Lord,” she said. “And there was a point where I couldn’t run out anymore because I was wearing high heels. So we just stayed behind some chairs.”

Recalling the moments of fear and uncertainty, Laverde emphasized how her faith grew stronger amid the chaos.

“The first thing I thought was, I’m gonna let my family know,” she said. “But I do want to glorify the name of the Lord because at that moment, I thought in my head, ‘I’m gonna die.’”

Laverde found comfort in scripture, particularly Psalms 91:1, which speaks of finding refuge in the shadow of the Almighty.

“And I grabbed that word, and I started declaring that word over the church because that was, to me, the Holy Spirit, and I knew that we were under his shelter,” she said.

Police indicated at a news conference Monday afternoon that Moreno acted alone in carrying out the shooting. A 57-year-old man was also wounded in the shooting but has been released from a hospital, according to authorities.

Authorities commended the swift response of security personnel and first responders to the incident.

The shooting shook the congregation of Lakewood Church, one of the largest churches in the United States, prompting renewed discussions about security measures at religious institutions.

The injured child was transported to a nearby hospital and is reportedly “fighting for his life,” according to Houston police.

Osteen, a prominent televangelist and pastor of Lakewood Church, expressed condolences to those affected by the tragedy and urged his congregation to come together in prayer and support for the victims and their families.

NewsNation’s Jeff Arnold contributed to this report.

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