The person who opened fire Sunday at a downtown Houston megachurch was a 36-year-old woman carrying an AR-15 and holding a yellow rope that “appeared to be a detonation cord” for a bomb, according to a search warrant. to her home in Montgomery County.
The document provided new details of the shooting that rocked Lakewood Church, which is led by televangelist Joel Osteen and is one of the largest congregations in the United States. The shooting ended quickly after the woman was shot and killed by off-duty police officers who had been hired to provide security.
The warrant identified the woman as Genesse Ivonne Moreno, who lived in Conroe, Texas, north of Houston. A child, who authorities say is 4 or 5 years old and arrived with Ms. Moreno, was injured during the shooting. He was in critical condition Monday. A man who was in the church was also injured.
It was unclear what connection the boy had to Moreno or what connection she had to Lakewood Church, where Osteen's sermons draw huge national audiences online and on television.
The motive for the shooting is also unclear. According to a law enforcement official familiar with the investigation, a reference to “Palestine” was handwritten on the rifle used in the attack.
Before off-duty officers shot her to death, the shooter stated that he had a bomb, according to the warrant. Agents said she was wearing a yellow cord that “appeared to be a detonation cord” that was “consistent with the manufacture of explosive devices.” The officers opened fire after she pointed her gun at them, according to the warrant.
Police searched the shooter's one-story home in Conroe on Sunday night, according to a person familiar with the search. They were searching for firearms, computers and cell phones, as well as materials used to make explosives or a “dummy bomb,” according to the warrant.
Authorities said during a news conference Sunday that despite his statements and the fact that he sprayed some type of substance on the ground, the shooter did not have any explosives inside the church.
“He had a long gun and it could have been a lot worse,” said Chief Troy Finner of the Houston Police Department. According to the warrant, the woman shot a man and wounded him, but Chief Finner said the man “had nothing to do with it.” It is not clear from the document whether the boy was shot by the woman or by her off-duty officers when they confronted her.
The department was scheduled to hold another news conference Monday afternoon.
A church representative, Don Iloff, said he did not believe church members and leaders knew the shooter.
At a news conference after the shooting, a beaming Osteen said he intended to continue his mission of providing hope.
“We don't understand why these things happen, but we know God is in control,” said Osteen, who tends to avoid getting into politics. “There are forces of evil but the forces that are for us, the forces of God, are stronger than that.”
The shooting took place around 1:53 pm on Sunday, after an English service had ended and as a Spanish service began. The church occupies a stadium-sized building along a major highway that was the former home of the Houston Rockets basketball team. The services attract tens of thousands of people in person, and many more watch online and on television.
The attacker drove to the church in a white car and entered the building wearing a trench coat and a backpack, Chief Finner said Sunday. “Once she came in, at some point, she started shooting,” he said.
The two off-duty police officers who intervened included an officer from the Houston Police Department and an agent from the Texas Alcoholic Beverage Commission. Chief Finner said the two were providing private security at the church.
Glenn Zorzal and Victor Mather contributed with reports. Alain Delaquérière contributed to the research.
News USA Today has a skilled online editor and content writer, boasting six years of experience in Media and Broadcasting. News, Finance, Sports, Travel, and Entertainment.