According to senior law enforcement officials, the assault style-type rifle used by the woman shot and killed Sunday afternoon at Joel Osteen’s Lakewood Church in Houston had “Palestine” written on it. Police have stated that two off-duty officers at the church returned fire, striking the shooter and killing her at about 1:50 p.m. The child, identified as the shooters’ son, was also struck during the incident and was in critical condition. Police Chief Troy Finner said at a news conference that the boy was approximately 5 years old.
Osteen said that the shooting happened between services as people were arriving for Spanish service. About 45,000 people attend services there every week, making it one of the largest megachurches in the country. In a statement on Facebook, Osteen urged his congregation to lean on their faith to cope with anguish: “Our community is devastated by today’s events and grateful for the swift actions of law enforcement. Together, we will rise above this tragedy and stand firm in our commitment to love and support one another.”
The shooter, identified as Genesse Ivonne Moreno, 36, also made several undisclosed statements during the course of the incident, and law enforcement officials added that Moreno previously went by another male name. Moreno also stated she had a bomb, but a search of the vehicle showed there were no explosive devices. Police Chief Finner said that one of the off-duty officers involved the incident is an agent with the Texas Alcoholic Beverage Commission, and the other is a Houston police officer. Officials are investigating possible motives, but have not conclusively say what led to the shooting. They have not ruled out terrorism or hate crime-related motives.
Law enforcement records also revealed that Moreno had at least six prior arrests since 2005, including unlawful carrying of a weapon, which she pleaded guilty to; evading arrest; and assault on a public official, which was pleaded to a lesser charge.
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