HOUSTON (TCD) -- A 36-year-old woman was shot dead by off-duty police officers when she walked into Joel Osteen’s megachurch and opened fire in the hallway.
According to Houston Police Commander Christopher Hassig, on Sunday, Feb. 11, at 1:53 p.m., Genesse Moreno exited a white vehicle, pulled a 7-year-old child out of the back seat, and walked to the west side of Lakewood Church. Moreno was carrying a bag and wearing a trench coat. She confronted a security guard and entered the church at 1:55 p.m., then "immediately" started firing her long gun. Hassig emphasized the shooting did not occur inside the church’s sanctuary.
Moreno allegedly shot "multiple rounds" inside the hallway, then engaged in a gun battle with two off-duty officers who were working at the church. The 7-year-old child she brought in, who police confirmed was her son, was shot in the head during the crossfire. He was rushed to the hospital in critical condition. Police Chief Troy Finner said the boy is "fighting for his life."
The gunfire lasted several minutes, and Moreno was declared dead at 2:07 p.m.
Moreno reportedly had a number of aliases, including Jeffrey Escalante, but Hassig said the investigation has determined Moreno identifies as a female.
A 57-year-old man reportedly sustained a gunshot wound to the leg. Houston Fire Chief Sam Peña said in a press conference Moreno threatened that she had a bomb, but police searched her car and bag and did not find any explosives.
Hassig said police recovered an AR-15 long gun that she used in the shooting and a .22 caliber rifle in her hand bag. The AR-15 had a "Palestine" sticker on it, which Hassig said relates to antisemitic writings they uncovered during their investigation.
Police do not believe Moreno is part of a larger organization.
According to Hassig, Moreno was put under an emergency detention order in 2016 and she has a history of mental health issues. Officials believe there was a "familial dispute" between Moreno and her ex-husband and his family members, some of whom are Jewish.
Osteen released a statement following the shooting at his church, which said in part, "In times like these, our faith is tested, but it is also strengthened. We don’t always understand why things like this happen, but we know that God is in control."
KHOU-TV reports the shooting occurred a few minutes before services in Spanish were scheduled to begin.