Police Identify Megachurch Shooting Suspect

Genesse Ivonne Moreno was fatally shot by off-duty officers inside Lakewood Church
By Rob Quinn,  Newser Staff
Posted Feb 12, 2024 3:19 PM CST
Police Identify Megachurch Shooting Suspect
In this screen grab taken from video provided by KTRK-TV ABC13, authorities respond to a shooting at Lakewood Church, the Houston megachurch of celebrity pastor Joel Osteen, Sunday, Feb. 11, 2024.   (KTRK-TV ABC13 via AP)

The woman who opened fire in Joel Osteen's Houston megachurch on Sunday has been identified as 36-year-old Genesse Ivonne Moreno, but many details, including the motive, remain unclear. The Houston Chronicle reports that Moreno, who was fatally shot by two off-duty officers working security inside Lakewood Church, was named in a warrant to search a home in Conroe, 40 miles north of Houston. Authorities say the suspect was wearing a trench coat and carrying an AR-15-style rifle when she entered the church, accompanied by a young boy, the AP reports. Law enforcement sources tell NBC News that "Palestine" was written on the rifle. The child was critically injured in the shooting.

Police said the suspect claimed to have a bomb, but no explosives were found. The search warrant states that the shooter had "yellow color rope and substances consistent with the manufacture of explosive devices." Moreno, who has also gone under the name Jeffery Escalante, has a long criminal record including arrests on suspicion of assaulting a public servant, forgery, theft, evading arrest, and unlawful carrying of a weapon, KHOU reports. ABC13 reports that antisemitic writings were recovered from Moreno's bag, and police believe there was a dispute with her ex-husband's family, which includes some Jewish members.

The two officers shot Moreno in self-defense after she pointed her weapon at them, authorities say. Police confirmed Monday that the 7-year-old boy, who was initially described as a 5-year-old, is Moreno's biological son, the AP reports. The Houston Chronicle reports that authorities say the boy is not expected to survive his injuries. It's not clear who fired the shot that wounded the boy, CNN reports. "That suspect put that baby in danger," Houston Police Chief Troy Finner said Sunday. "I'm going to put that blame on her." A 57-year-old man injured in the shooting was released from the hospital on Monday. (More Joel Osteen stories.)

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