A shooter who was killed by off-duty police officers after opening fire at a Houston megachurch while seemingly using a 7-year-old child as a human shield has been identified as a woman named Genesse Moreno, who police said also identified as a man named Jeffrey Escalante.
Police said a woman in her early 30s entered Lakewood Church on Feb. 11 wearing a trench coat and backpack, armed with a long rifle, and began firing.
Before managing to kill anyone, the shooter was taken down by two off-duty officers, one a Texas Alcoholic Beverage Commission agent and the other a Houston police officer, according to Houston Police Chief Troy Finner.
“I want to commend those officers. She had a long gun, and it could’ve been a lot worse, but they stepped up and they did their job,” Chief Finner said during a media briefing on the afternoon of Feb. 11.
Emergency vehicles line the feeder road outside Lakewood Church during a reported active shooter event in Houston on Feb. 11, 2024. (Kirk Sides/Houston Chronicle via AP)
An affidavit seeking a search warrant for a home in Conroe, Texas, about 40 miles north of Houston, identifies the shooter as 36-year-old Genesse Ivonne Moreno, according to the Associated Press. The warrant was released by the Montgomery County district attorney’s office.
Records cited by the Houston Chronicle and other media outlets, and which are circulating online, show that the shooter also identified as Jeffrey Escalante, who had a long criminal history, including assault, drug, and weapons charges.
“A lengthy criminal history. A woman who thinks she is a man,” Don Hooper, a writer at the Houston Conservative Forum, wrote in a post on X, formerly known as Twitter, that featured a series of the shooter’s mugshots over the years.
“My information is biological female per the medical examiner,” he wrote in an earlier post. “They were looking at the body when brought in.”
Chris Hassig, commander of the Houston Police Department homicide division, said during a media briefing on Feb. 12 that investigators have identified the shooter as a 36-year-old Hispanic female named Genesse Moreno.
“There are some discrepancies [regarding the individual’s gender],” he said. “We do have reports she used multiple aliases, including Jeffrey Escalante. So she utilized both male and female names.”
However, Mr. Hassig said the investigation indicates that “she has been identified this entire time as female.”
He noted that the gun used by the shooter had a sticker with the word “Palestine” on it.
Child as Human Shield?
At the Feb. 12 briefing, Mr. Hassig said two people were injured in the incident, including the child who accompanied the shooter.
The other person injured was a 57-year-old man, who was shot in the hip or leg.
Mr. Hassig said the 7-year-old child who accompanied Ms. Moreno was struck in the head in the exchange of gunfire and remains in critical condition.
He said Ms. Moreno pulled up to the church in a vehicle with the child inside and then entered the building with the little boy and, after entering, “she immediately starts firing inside of the hallway.”
The two officers returned fire.
“Multiple shots are exchanged by all three,” Mr. Hassig said. “She eventually falls to the ground; the 7-year-old child falls to the ground as well from gunfire. One gunshot wound to the head.”
A Montgomery County District Attorney’s Office spokesperson was cited by the Houston Chronicle as saying on Feb. 12 that the 7-year-old was not expected to survive.
While it’s unclear who shot the child, Chief Finner blamed the shooter.
“That female, that suspect put that baby in danger,” he said during the Feb. 11 briefing.
“I’m going to put that blame on her.”
Lakewood Church, which seats roughly 16,000 people, is led by pastor Joel Osteen.
Pastor Joel Osteen speaks to the media after a shooting at Lakewood Church in Houston on Feb. 11, 2024, in a still from video footage. (KTRK-TV ABC13 via AP)
In a statement posted on X, Mr. Osteen praised law enforcement for acting swiftly to neutralize the threat and said that he was “devastated” by the shooting.
“In the face of such darkness, we must hold onto our faith and remember evil will not prevail,” he said.
Texas Gov. Greg Abbott issued a statement calling the shooting a “heinous act” and praising law enforcement for acting “quickly to respond to this tragedy.”
“Our hearts are with those impacted by today’s tragic shooting and the entire Lakewood Church community in Houston,” Mr. Abbott wrote.
A motive for the attack remains unclear.
Ms. Moreno’s posts on social media show a history of leftist politics, according to independent journalist Andy Ngo.
Alan Guity, a member of Lakewood Church since 1998, said he heard gunshots while resting inside the church’s sanctuary as his mother was working as an usher.
He told the Associated Press that he ran to his mother and that they both lay flat on the floor as the gunfire continued.
Mr. Guity told the outlet that he and his mother prayed and stayed on the floor for about five minutes until they were told it was safe to leave the building. He said that as he exited the building, he could see people crying and looking for loved ones.
Mon, 02/12/2024 – 20:55