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HomeGeneralHouston Police Identifies Woman Who Opened Fire in a Megachurch

Houston Police Identifies Woman Who Opened Fire in a Megachurch

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Joel Osteen speaking to the press
Source: Honolulu Star-Advertiser

Genesse Ivonne Moreno, 36, entered Pastor Joel Osteen’s Lakewood Church with her 7-year-old shortly before 2 pm wearing a trench coat and backpack and opened fire, Houston Police Chief Troy Finner said in a Sunday afternoon news conference.

Officers “shot and killed her in self-defense” after she pointed her weapon at them, according to the search warrant released Monday by the Montgomery County District Attorney’s Office.

Her son was shot in the head during the shooting and remains in the hospital Monday in critical condition, the police chief said. It’s unclear who fired the shot that injured the child. The gunfire unfolded while the church was “in between services” and preparing to go into a Spanish service.

The shooter used a legally purchased AR-15 with a “Palestine” sticker on it, police said. A federal law enforcement source previously told CNN that “Free Palestine” was written on the gun.

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She also had a .22 caliber weapon in her bag, which was not used in the attack, according to a federal law enforcement source. The source said that investigators are trying to determine whether she was politically motivated or a disturbed individual.

“I want to commend those officers. She had a long gun, and it could have been a lot worse,” Finner said. “But they stepped up, and they did their job, and I want to thank them for that.”

Both officers who engaged with the shooter will be placed on administrative duty pending the investigation, as is protocol with officer-involved shootings, Finner said. “It’s traumatic not only for our community but it’s certainly traumatic for the officers who had to take a life, and we worry about their mental health as well, so our prayers are with them,” Houston Fire Chief Samuel Peña said in Sunday’s news conference.

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Information from Moreno’s social media accounts and local authorities paints a portrait of a single mother with a history of mental health challenges. Police have said Moreno acted as a “lone wolf” and is not part of a larger group. Moreno threatened that she had a bomb, but authorities searched her vehicle and backpack and found no explosives, the Houston police chief said.

“We’re devastated,” Osteen said. “We’ve been here 65 years, and to have somebody shooting at your church…” A woman inside the church at the time of the shooting told CNN affiliate KHOU that Osteen was greeting people after the end of the service, and she was among the last to meet him.

ALSO READ: Unknown Suspect Fatally Shoots New Jersey Imam Outside Mosque

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Soon after, she told the news station she heard repeated bangs, almost like “mechanical sounds.” “It almost sounded like folding tables were being dismantled and dropped to the floor,” she said. “But they were erratic.”

Then, the woman said she heard another set of gunshots and saw people screaming and running. She entered a room and squeezed inside with multiple other people, including a child. They put two large wooden slats on the door to keep it from opening, and then, they began to pray. “We were thankful,” she said. “We could have been a casualty. We could have been shot.”

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