A megachurch in Houston has become the latest victim of pro-Palestinian violence.
The Associated Press writes that “a woman in a trenchcoat opened fire with a long gun Sunday inside celebrity pastor Joel Osteen’s megachurch in Texas, sending worshippers rushing to find safety while two off-duty officers confronted and killed the shooter. Two other people were shot and injured, including a 5-year-old boy who was in critical condition.
The violence erupted shortly before the Houston church’s 2 p.m. Spanish service was set to begin, just as the rest of the country was preparing for the Super Bowl. The woman entered the enormous Lakewood Church – a building with a 16,000-person capacity that was previously an arena for the NBA’s Houston Rockets — with the boy who was later hurt in the shootout with police. A man in his 50s was also wounded.”
The shooter, Genesse Moreno, 36, noted local KHOU, “had a criminal history dating back to 2005, and previously identified as Jeffery Escalante, according to a Texas Department of Public Safety records search. Prior arrests include assault of a public servant, assault causing bodily injury, forgery, possession of marijuana, theft, evading arrest unlawful carrying weapon failure to stop and give information.”
The child was allegedly brought by the shooter to be used as a human shield.
According to CNN, Moreno entered the church accompanied by a child who Finner estimated to be between “4 to 5 years old.”
Two off-duty officers were present: a 28-year-old Houston Police Department officer and a 38-year-old agent with the Texas Alcoholic Beverage Commission, both with less than five years of service. The two officers engaged the shooter and she was struck, the police chief said.
The shooter used an AR-15 that had “Free Palestine” written on it, according to a federal law enforcement source. Investigators are trying to determine whether she was politically motivated or a disturbed individual, the source said.
“I want to commend those officers. She had a long gun and it could have been a lot worse,” Finner said. “But they stepped up and they did their job, and I want to thank them for that.”
The New York Times reported, “Before she was shot and killed by the off-duty officers, the woman stated that she had a bomb, according to the warrant. The officers said she was carrying 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 weapon at them, according to the warrant.
Officials said during a news conference on Sunday that despite her statements and the fact that she sprayed some sort of substance on the ground, the assailant did not have any explosives inside the church.”
The church’s leader, Joel Osteen observed that had the shooter initiated the attack during the church’s 11 a.m. worship instead of the period between services, the damage would have been much worse.
LAKEWOOD SHOOTING: Pastor Joel Osteen speaks out after a shooting happened inside Lakewood Church.
The motive is unclear.
It occurred in between services as the Spanish service was about to begin at 2 p.m. pic.twitter.com/QPtFt6DiUN
— Charly Edsitty (@CharlyABC13) February 11, 2024
The past few months have seen a dramatic rise in violence from American supporters of Palestine in the ongoing war happening in Gaza between Hamas and Israel. In November, half a dozen Capitol Police officers were injured during a pro-Palestinian demonstration outside of the headquarters of the Democratic National Committee.
Absolute mayhem outside the Democratic National Committee headquarters in Washington DC.
Ceasefire advocates who were protesting and blocking the doors of the DNC building are being pulled off, thrown down, and arrested by law enforcement. pic.twitter.com/uCEsYGQt8L
— Yashar Ali 🐘 (@yashar) November 16, 2023
Members of Congress were hearing from prospective candidates inside of the DNC when Capitol Police evacuated them from the building, Rep. Sherman told ABC News in a phone interview.
A local Washington news outlet spoke to Jeff James, a retired U.S. Secret Service agent, who claimed that there’s a rising “concern foreign terrorists will try to infiltrate protest groups, and he’s concerned some have crossed the U.S. southern border.
‘These transnational terrorist groups are not above paying cartels to sneak sleeper cells across the border for them,’ James told FOX 5. “The cartels are not above taking their money, so it could be a bad mix.”
An common cry among leftwing pro-Palestine/anti-Israel activists has been their calls for “ceasefire.” However, the group that has so far turned down attempts at ending the war in Gaza has been Hamas, which has turned down multiple offers of ceasefire, which has included the release of over 100 prisoners taken during the initial raid on October 7 of last year.
Israel recently rejected a counteroffer by Hamas that would have released hundreds of Hamas officials, including senior leaders, in exchange for the hostages.