Was the Joel Osteen church shooter trans? Police fail to clarify

Police also said that they had discovered "antisemitic" writings in a search of items belonging to the shooter.

Authorities respond to a shooting at Lakewood Church in Houston on Feb. 11, 2024. (KTRK-TV ABC13 screenshot)

(The Daily Signal) — A woman who used male aliases shot two people at Joel Osteen’s Lakewood Church in Houston on Sunday, according to police. Two off-duty police officers fatally shot the suspect, whose gun reportedly bore the word “Palestine,” after she had opened fire in the megachurch.

Houston police confirmed to The Daily Signal in a phone call that the investigation has not ruled out a transgender identity.

A public information officer referred to the suspect as “they,” noting the discovery of “court documents where they identified themselves as Jeffrey.” The officer stated that the department is treating the subject of the suspect’s gender with “sensitivity,” and noted that the investigation is ongoing.

In a news conference Monday, police cited “discrepancies” that may suggest a transgender identity, yet authorities insisted that the shooter was female, to their knowledge.

“Our shooter is identified by driver’s license as Genesse Moreno, 36 years old, Hispanic female,” Christopher Hassig, commander of the Houston Police Department’s homicide unit, said at the news conference. Her full name is Genesse Ivonne Moreno, according to police.

“We do have reports she used multiple aliases, including Jeffrey Escalante,” Hassig added. “She has utilized both male and female names, but through all of our investigation to this point, talking with individuals, interviews, documents, Houston Police Department reports, she has been identified this entire time as female, she/her.”

Police also said that they had discovered “antisemitic” writings in a search of items belonging to the shooter.

Police not clarify whether her body had been identified as biologically female.

The department did not respond to The Daily Signal’s request for comment as to whether she had testosterone in her system at the time of death. The coroner also did not respond to The Daily Signal’s request for comment by publication time.

Fox News reported that Moreno had been “born as a man — Jeffrey Escalante — from El Salvador.”

The shooter entered Lakewood Church bearing an AR-15, accompanied by a 7-year-old boy. Police confirmed the boy was shot and is in critical condition at Texas Children’s Hospital. They later identified the boy as the son of the shooter. An unrelated 57-year-old man was also shot and injured in the incident.

Two off-duty police officers promptly killed the shooter before more injuries could occur. One officer works at the Texas Alcoholic Beverage Commission and the other works for the Houston Police Department.

If Moreno was biologically female, that would differentiate her from the vast majority of mass shooters. According to Justice Department research, published in February 2022, 97.7% of mass shooters in the U.S. have been male.

Last March, another female opened fire, at a school in Nashville, Tenn., killing six. Audrey Hale, a biological female, identified as a male. Authorities have yet to confirm whether she had testosterone in her system. Biological females who identify as male often take testosterone as a cross-sex hormone, in order to appear more male.

Higher amounts of testosterone give men larger muscles, more significant skeletal muscle, and a higher percentage of red blood cells. Testosterone also tends to give men unwarranted self-confidence and aggression.

It remains unclear whether Moreno was female and identified as male, and whether she took cross-sex hormones such as testosterone, but the drug might explain why a biological female would perpetrate a mass shooting.

Osteen, a popular Christian preacher, often draws criticism for promoting a “prosperity gospel,” the idea that God wants Christians to be healthy and wealthy.


Tyler O'Neil

Tyler O'Neil is managing editor of The Daily Signal and the author of "Making Hate Pay: The Corruption of the Southern Poverty Law Center."