the woman who was shot dead on Sunday Joel Osteen’s Lakewood church in Houston carried an assault-style rifle with the word “Palestine” emblazoned on it this afternoon, two top law enforcement officials briefed on the matter said.
The shooter, identified as Genesse Yvonne Moreno, 36, also made several statements during the incident, but officials declined to describe them. Law enforcement officials added that Moreno previously went by a different, male name.
Moreno brought her young son with her to the church, officials said. During the incident, the person who fired the shot said that he had a bomb in his hand, but as a result of the search of the car, it was found that there was no explosive device.
Law enforcement records show the shooter has at least six prior arrests since 2005, including one count of unlawful possession of a weapon, to which he pleaded guilty; evading arrest; and the lesser charge of assault on a public servant.
Police said two officers on duty at the church opened fire, striking and killing the shooter around 1:50 a.m.
Police Chief Troy Finner said at a press conference Sunday that the child is about 5 years old.
One of the off-duty officers is a Texas Alcoholic Beverage Commission agent and the other is a Houston police officer, he added.
Officials are investigating a wide range of possible causes, given the writing on the gun, but are not yet sure what caused the fire. They did not rule out terrorism or hate crime-related motives.
Osteen said the shooting happened between services, when people were arriving at the Spanish service. About 45,000 people attend services there each week, making it one of the largest megachurches in the country.
Osteen said he was “in a fog” after the violence and kept the injured in his prayers.
“We don’t understand why all this is happening,” the pastor told reporters on Sunday. “But we know God is in control.”
In a later statement on Facebook, Osteen urged his congregation to lean on their faith to overcome suffering.
“Our community is devastated by today’s events and is grateful for the swift action of law enforcement,” he said. “Together we will overcome this tragedy and stand strong in our commitment to love and support each other.”