Feb. 12 (UPI) — Police in Houston have identified a woman who they say opened fire inside pastor Joel Osteen’s Lakewood megachurch Sunday with an AR-15 rifle that displayed a “Palestine” sticker before off-duty officers shot and killed her.
Her young son is “fighting for his life” after getting caught in the crossfire.
Genesse Ivonne Moreno, 36, was shot and killed by two off-duty officers after she entered the church at 1:55 p.m., with her 7-year-old son in tow, and opened fire shortly before the church’s Spanish language service was scheduled to begin, according to police.
Moreno’s son was shot in the head as officers exchanged gunfire. He is currently “fighting for his life” in critical condition, according to Houston Police Chief Troy Finner.
Another man attending the church was shot in the leg and has been released from the hospital.
Moreno, who was wearing a trench coat and a backpack that she announced contained a bomb, was killed immediately. Police said they found no explosives during searches of the backpack and her vehicle.
Officers “shot and killed her in self-defense” after she pointed her weapon at them, according to the Montgomery County District Attorney’s Office search warrant released Monday.
The “number of casualties and victims would have been much higher” without the off-duty officers’ “heroic” actions, according to Doug Williams, special agent in charge of the FBI Houston field office.
Police have not released any information on which officer fired the shot that injured the child. Both officers have been placed on administrative duty pending the investigation.
“Our community is devastated by today’s events and grateful for the swift actions of law enforcement,” Osteen said in a statement Sunday. “May the healing hands of God touch the lives of everyone involved and provide comfort during this difficult time.”
While investigators recovered some antisemitic writings and found a “Palestine” sticker on the weapon, police said an official motive behind Sunday’s shooting has not been determined.
“We do believe that there was a familial dispute that has taken place between her ex-husband and her ex-husband’s family,” according to police, who added that some of her family members are Jewish.
In addition to mental health problems, Moreno had a history of criminal charges that included possession of marijuana, assault and illegal possession of a weapon, Houston Homicide Commander Christopher Hassig told reporters Monday.
Investigators say Moreno acted alone. The AR-15 she was carrying was purchased legally. She was also carrying a .22-caliber rifle.