Joel Osteen Slips Away Minutes Before Church Shooting

( – Joel Osteen, the pastor of the Lakewood megachurch in Houston, is reported to have missed a potential encounter with a shooter on Sunday, February 11th. Joel Osteen and wife Victoria had given their customary 11 am sermon in the 16,000-seat church before heading to the second floor to meet and greet visitors to the church. While Victoria left the church afterward, Joel headed downstairs to the church’s private offices shortly before the start of the church’s 2 pm Spanish-language service. Minutes later, Genesse Ivonne Moreno, 36, entered the building with her seven-year-old son.

Moreno was wearing a long trench coat, which hid her AR-15 rifle, and her son was wearing a backpack, which was checked by security personnel at the door, as reported by Donald Iloff Jr., Victoria Osteen’s brother and an executive at Lakewood. Upon entering the building, Moreno sprayed a substance on the floor before opening fire. She was engaged in gunfire by two off-duty police officers who were able to fatally wound her and bring the shootout to an end at 2:07 pm.

A 57-year-old churchgoer was shot in the leg during the confrontation but is expected to survive. Moreno’s seven-year-old son was shot in the head and remains in critical condition in hospital. It is unclear how exactly he sustained his injury or who shot him.

Moreno is known to have a criminal record and a history of mental illness, and in 2016 was placed under an emergency detention order. She has in the past identified as transgender and gone by the alias “Jeffrey Escalante”. The gun Moreno took into the megachurch had the word “Palestine” written on it, and authorities have said that they have found evidence of antisemitic writings belonging to the shooter.

Police have stated that Moreno had had a dispute with members of her ex-husband’s family. Notably, some members of the family are Jewish, including her former mother-in-law who had been fighting for custody of her grandson, to be shared with the boy’s father. His father, Enrique Carranza, also has a criminal record and is a known sex offender.

While Moreno’s ties to the church and her motivations are still being established, one local television station, KHOU, has stated that Moreno’s mother attended the church and that some members of staff at the church may have been questioned during Moreno’s divorce and custody battle. Moreno is reported to have been diagnosed with both schizophrenia and Munchausen-by-proxy, a rare condition most commonly found in mothers in which they will fake or create symptoms of illness in their child in order to gain attention, validation, or other benefits. It is unclear why or how she was permitted to maintain custody of her son.

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