The head of the Texas Alcoholic Beverage Commission (TABC) pointed to the Lakewood Church shooting in Houston on Sunday, to highlight the damages done in metropolitan areas affected by the defund police movement.
At a press conference on Monday afternoon, the chairman of the TABC, Kevin Lilly, joined the mayor of Houston, police officials and others to provide an update on the shooting at Joel Osteen’s megachurch.
“Public safety, ladies and gentlemen, is one of the most critical things that we have,” Lilly said. “I would say this to elected officials that want to defund police: I say they do so at their own political peril. We need to unify as a community to defend our men and women in the thin blue line.”
Lilly thanked the law enforcement officials who responded to the shooting, calling them the “personification of heroism and valor.”
Two off-duty officers working at the church as security guards are credited with stopping the female shooter.
“They were a wall that existed between worshipers and terror, between freedom of religion and murder,” the TABC chairman said. “We should all be mindful of the sacrifices that our men and women in law enforcement make every day. It is a profession of the highest honor.”
Lilly’s comments come as big cities like Chicago, Minneapolis, Philadelphia, Portland, Oregon, and Austin, Texas, have acted over the past few years to defund police departments.
The Austin City Council and former Mayor Steve Adler voted to gut APD’s funding by about a third in August 2020, leading to a swift officer exodus. The Texas legislature passed a law that effectively forced the city to restore that funding the following year. However, the defunding and cancelation of cadet classes left the department well short of its recommended staffing level.
Lilly said he may not always agree politically with Houston Mayor John Whitmire, but said the mayor has always honored and respected law enforcement and public safety.
Authorities identified the Lakewood Church shooter as Genesse Ivonne Moreno, a Hispanic female who had used both female and male names. Police said she entered the church with her 7-year-old son and opened fire at the off-duty officers with an AR-15.
A 57-year-old man was shot and survived. Moreno’s son was shot in the head and critically injured.
A motive for the shooting is unclear.
During the press conference Monday, Doug Williams of the FBI praised the actions of the officers who stopped the shooter.
“There is no doubt that their heroic actions saved lives,” he said.