The Harris County Sheriff’s Office reported that deputies were dispatched to LakeWood near the Southwest Freeway in response to a potential shooting incident at approximately 2 p.m. local time. According to ABC13Houston, a witness within the church reported hearing multiple gunshots while in the choir room.
During a media briefing, Houston police revealed that a woman in her early 30s entered the church armed with a long rifle, donning a trenchcoat and carrying a backpack. Accompanied by a young child, estimated to be between four and five years old, she immediately opened fire upon entering the premises.
“The whole church started praying and declaring Jesus’ name,” the witness told the outlet. “I was like, ‘This might be the last time I get to pray, that I get to glorify the name of Jesus so I’m going to do this.'”
The suspect is identified as transgender Jeffrey Escalante, formerly known as Genessa Ivonne Moreno. According to online sources, the rifle was reportedly inscribed with the phrase “Free Palestine.”
Law enforcement officials stated that two off-duty officers confronted and fatally shot the woman on the spot. The child was unfortunately struck and is currently in critical condition at the hospital.
In addition, a 57-year-old gentleman, who was not part of the incident, suffered a gunshot injury to his leg and was taken to the hospital for medical care.
As the woman went to the ground, law enforcement officials stated that she made a threat regarding the possession of an explosive device. Officers, in collaboration with the bomb squad, conducted a thorough search of her vehicle and backpack, ultimately finding no evidence of any explosives.
The incident occurred during the 2pm Spanish-language service at the church. The church, with a regular congregation of 45,000 individuals, was conducting a live stream service when the sound of gunfire became audible in the background.
Joel Osteen released the following statement:
“Our community is devastated by today’s events and grateful for the swift actions of law enforcement. May the healing hands of God touch the lives of everyone involved and provide comfort during this difficult time. In the face of such darkness, we must hold onto our faith and remember evil will not prevail. God will guide us through the darkest of times. Together, we will rise above this tragedy and stand firm in our commitment to love and support one another. In times like these, our faith is tested, but it is also strengthened. We don’t always understand why things like this happen, but we know that God is in control. Please join me in continued prayer for healing and peace.”