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Lakewood Church shooting: Spotlight on Texas gun laws after Houston megachurch attack

The spotlight is on Texas gun laws after a woman with a history of mental illness and a criminal record was able to legally purchase a gun and walk into Joel Osteen’s megachurch in Houston.

Genesse Moreno, 36, opened fire at the church sparking a gunfight with two off-duty cops that left her son fighting for his life in hospital. He remains in critical condition.

In the days since, information has emerged about Moreno’s mental health and criminal history – raising questions around whether something could have been done to have prevented the shooting.

Police said she had legally purchased the AR-15 rifle in December 2023 — despite the fact that court records show that in 2022, she was arrested for a weapons misdemeanour charge.

Now all eyes are turning to Texas’ lax gun laws – particularly the state’s absence of red flag laws.

Red flag laws — which allow for police to intervene if someone shows signs that they are a danger to themselves or others. A court can take away their guns or prevent them from buying one.

The issue is, in Texas, there is no red flag law.

Key Points

  • Here’s what we know about the megachurch shooting so far

  • Woman shot dead by police after opening fire at church

  • Who is Lakewood Church shooter Genesse Moreno?

  • Who is pastor of Lakewood Church Joel Osteen?

What is the motive for the shooting?

Tuesday 13 February 2024 14:20 , Rachel Sharp

The motive for the shooting remains unclear, but investigators said that Genesse Moreno had a sticker which read “Palestine” on the butt of the rifle.

Police have also since recovered some antisemitic writings, they said.

Christopher Hassig, with the Houston Police Department’s homicide unit, said that at the time of the shooting Moreno was in the midst of a familial dispute with her ex-husband and his family, who are Jewish.

“We think this is where this stems from,” he said.

However, officials urged against speculation, saying that the investigation is still in the early stages.

“It’s way too early to determine a motive for the shooter’s actions and we’re not in the business of speculating,” said Doug Williams, FBI’s special agent in charge of the Houston field office.

Neighbours recall the red flags they noticed about Genesse Moreno

Tuesday 13 February 2024 15:00 , Andrea Cavallier

Neighbours are speaking out about the red flags they noticed about Genesse Moreno before she opened fire at Lakewood Church on Sunday.

Several neighbors told KPRC that Moreno had harassed and threatened them for four years.

One neighbour said Moreno had scrawled swastikas on her property and taunted her and her grandchildren multiple times.

“I’ve been through hell. I have reported this, reported this and its gone on deaf ears,” said Jill, a neighbour. “I’ve had psychological officers out here that won’t answer their door, they won’t do anything, until she hurts you there is nothing we can do. Everyone keeps saying on all these big news stations, see something say something.”

Shooter allegedly accused son’s teacher of harassing him

Tuesday 13 February 2024 15:20 , Andrea Cavallier

The teacher of Moreno’s seven-year-old son told KPRC that Moreno accused her of harassing him.

“She called the school saying I was stalking her house,” she said.

Another neighbor said she filed a police report in July 2022 when Morena allegedly pulled a gun on her. But Moreno was not arrested, she said.

Several police reports have been filed against Morena by the neighbors.

“We went to the courthouse and we talked to commissioners and we talked to elected officials. We cannot do anything more than what we did, we tried to stop this,” another neighbor said. “We tried to help the public.”

Lakewood shooter was allegedly abusive to her husband

Tuesday 13 February 2024 15:40 , Andrea Cavallier

Police say Moreno had a long history of dealing with mental illness and was accused by her husband of being abusive.

According to divorce records obtained by ABC13, Enrique Carranza wrote that Moreno, who he referred to as “Jeffrey” became abusive soon after they were married.

They met in 2015 when they both worked at the Spaghetti Warehouse in downtown Houston.

“Jeffrey is a diagnosed schizophrenic, so daily it was a new battle or fight in her realm,” according to the documents.

He also wrote that Moreno had lupus but stopped taking her medication and when she became pregnant, she continued to use other drugs.

“I currently fear that my wife will harm my son because she knows that all I wanted my whole life was to be a father, and I will not allow hate to be taught to my son,” Mr Carranza wrote.

Mr Carranza is a registered sex offender, but won custody of the couple’s son in Harris County.

However, he then lost custody when the divorce was finalized in 2022. He is currently incarcerated in Florida for failure to register as a sex offender.

Houston Mayor John Whitmire said Monday that detectives are investigating the role Moreno’s mental health played in the shooting.

Church shooter’s former mother-in-law claims system failed grandson

Tuesday 13 February 2024 16:00 , Andrea Cavallier

In a Facebook post on Monday, Moreno’s former mother-in-law blamed the system for failing to remove a child from a “woman with known mental illness.”

“Although my former daughter-in-law raged against Israel and Jews in a pro-Palestinian rant yesterday, this has nothing to do with Judaism or Islam. Nothing! But this is what happens when reckless and irresponsible reporting lets people with severe mental illness have an excuse for violence,” she wrote.

“No one may ever blame a police officer who carries out his or her rightful duty to save lives even if they are found responsible for shooting my grandson. The fault lies in a Child Protective Services of Montgomery County and Harris County which refused to remove custody from a woman with known mental illness who was not being treated and with the State of Texas for not having strong red flag laws that would have prevented (Moreno) from owning or possessing a gun.”

Genesse Moreno pictured in mugshot

Tuesday 13 February 2024 16:20 , Andrea Cavallier

Genesse Moreno has a lengthy criminal record with the most recent arrest in the summer of 2022.

Her mugshot was confirmed by the Fort Bend County Sheriff’s Office.

Genesse Moreno in a 2022 booking photo (Fort Bend County Sheriff’s Office)
Genesse Moreno in a 2022 booking photo (Fort Bend County Sheriff’s Office)

Who is the son of Lakewood Church shooter Genesse Moreno?

Tuesday 13 February 2024 16:40 , Andrea Cavallier

Genesse Moreno brought her seven-year-old son with her when she opened fire at the megachurch on Sunday. He got caught in the exchange of gunfire with police and was shot in the head. He is currently in critical condition.

Moreno’s ex-husband is a registered sex offender, and her son is special needs, and was placed in her custody following the divorce.

According to divorce papers, he claimed that Moreno “demonstrates no attachment to the child” and calls him “the boy” in place of his name and “doesn’t make eye contact with him.”

Child Protective Services investigated the family several times and found Moreno “has a history of erratic paranoid, stalking behavior and was diagnosed as exhibiting Munchausen by proxy,” and that she stored a loaded gun in her then 3-year-old’s diaper bag.

Shooter’s former mother-in-law says system failed her grandson

Tuesday 13 February 2024 17:00 , Andrea Cavallier

Moreno’s former mother-in-law, Rabbi Walli Carranza, told KHOU11 that they asked for help many times for Moreno who she says has “a particular kind of schizophrenia that caused her to become violent.”

“She threatened her husband, my own son, and we still couldn’t get intervention,” Ms Carranza said. “We asked for help from CPS. … We asked for help from police and received it many times but she was still allowed to own guns.”

Ms Carranza, who is the boy’s grandmother, has hope he will survive.

“He is a fighter. He’s a small Carranza,” she said.

Lakewood shooter ‘donated money to megachurch’ before opening fire

Tuesday 13 February 2024 17:20 , Andrea Cavallier

Genesse Moreno reportedly donated to the Lakewood Churchyears before she opened fire in the religious institution — alongside her son.

Moreno’s social media posts revealed that in March 2020, she posted a screenshot of a letter from Lakewood Church thanking her for the donation, CNN reported.

Kelly Rissman reports:

Lakewood shooter ‘donated money to megachurch’ years before opening fire

‘A completely preventable horror'

Tuesday 13 February 2024 19:30 , Io Dodds

Moreno’s former mother-in-law has further slammed Texas gun laws and the state’s child protective services for failing her seven-year-old grandson, reports my colleague Kelly Rissman.

In a Facebook post, Walli Carranza, who described herself as a rabbi, called the shooting a “completely preventable horror” caused by Moreno’s mental health struggles combined with lax gun regulations.

“No one may ever blame a police officer who carries out his or her rightful duty to save lives, even if they are found responsible for shooting my grandson,” she said.

“The fault lies in [the] child protective services of Montgomery County and Harris County that refused to remove [child] custody from a woman with known mental illness that was not being treated, and with the state of Texas for not having strong red flag laws that would have prevented her from owning or possessing a gun.”

Read our full story here for more.

Neighbours claim Moreno intimidated them with Nazi salutes

Tuesday 13 February 2024 19:54 , Io Dodds

Genesse Moreno’s neighbours say that she intimidated them with guns and made Nazi salutes for several years before the shooting, my colleague Andrea Cavallier reports.

Residents in Conroe – a north Houston suburb – told local reports that Moreno was often seen with multiple guns, harassing and threatening them and making them fearful in their own neighbourhood.

“Her way of intimidation was to bring the gun cases in and out, crossbows. She’d come out, have her gun cases, do heil Hitler, flip you off, call you the b-word, or something. It was something every day,” one neighbour told KPRC, a Houston TV news station.

Another neighbour said Moreno had scrawled swastikas on her property and taunted her and her grandchildren multiple times. Another claimed she tried to run them over.

“I’ve been through hell. I have reported this, reported this and its gone on deaf ears,” said one neighbour, who gave her name as Jill. “I’ve had psychological officers out here that won’t answer their door. They won’t do anything. [They say,] ‘until she hurts you there is nothing we can do’.”

You can read Andrea’s full story here.

Video shows Lakewood congregation running for cover

Tuesday 13 February 2024 20:26 , Io Dodds

We now have video from within the megachurch while the attack was unfolding.

The video doesn’t show any direct view of the shooting, though some viewers may still find it disturbing.

Shooter's son had severe disabilities

Tuesday 13 February 2024 20:57 , Io Dodds

Genesse Moreno’s son has developmental and physical disabilities and was not enrolled in public school, The Houston Chronicle now reports.

According to the newspaper, Moreno’s former mother-in-law Walli Carranza filed documents in a lawsuit against Moreno saying that her son was born prematurely and had special needs.

“[The child] is not a neurotypical five and a half-year-old child. He is nonverbal, tube-fed and not toilet trained,” Ms Carranza wrote.

The boy’s father Enrique Carranza also testified that his son had “physical and developmental lags”, and was not speaking at the age of four.

Conroe school officials said that the child was not enrolled in public school.

'Why she went to Lakewood, I have no idea'

Tuesday 13 February 2024 21:34 , Io Dodds

Moreno’s former mother in law has said she has “no idea” why Moreno chose Lakewood Church as her target.

In an interview with ABC 13, Wallia Carranza said the woman who opened fire in the church had changed enormously from the person who son married back in 2016.

“Why she went to Lakewood, I have no idea. They’re Protestants,” said Ms Carranza. “The anti-Semitic part says she would have went to a synagogue.”

Moreno had 'repeatedly threatened family'

Tuesday 13 February 2024 22:11 , Io Dodds

In a separate interview with The Christian Post, Walli Carranza said that Moreno had threatened many of her family members due to her schizophrenia.

“The fact that she wasn’t allowed to kill anyone else was a great blessing,” said Ms Carranza, who is the lead rabbi at a progressive Jewish congregation in France, according to her LinkedIn page.

“She had a particular kind of schizophrenia that caused her to become violent. She threatened her husband’s life. She threatened mine. She threatened to kill her own son and we still couldn’t get intervention.”

Ex-husband was 'reticent to file charges' for fear of deportation

Tuesday 13 February 2024 22:29 , Io Dodds

Despite accusing her of domestic abuse, Moreno's ex-husband was reluctant to file criminal charges against her for fear that she would be deported, according to court documents seen by ABC News.

In an affidavit filed in 2020 as part of a custody battle, Walli Carranza reportedly said that her son Enrique Carranza was "reticent to file the criminal charges against his wife, now his former wife because, as she is not a US citizen."

Ms Carranza continued: "As she already has had criminal convictions, she would likely be deported if convicted of the third degree felony that stems from filing a fraudulent birth certificate.

"He told detectives this is not what he wants for the woman he loved and married and the mother of his child. He wants her to live, he told police, where she can get quality mental healthcare.

"He doesn’t hate her; he hates her mental illness and her refusal to treat it."

Mr Carranza had accused Moreno of hitting him with keys and cans of beans, attacking him out of impatience with a job interview process, and pointing a loaded gun at him.

Moreno, going by the name Jeffrey Moreno-Carranza, responded by accusing Mr Carranza of physically assaulting her and of leaving the care of their son entirely to her.

Mr Carranza was previously convicted of attempting to sexually assault two children, aged 12 and 13, according to Texas's sex offender registry.

Ted Cruz shares debunked claim that Moreno was transgender

Tuesday 13 February 2024 22:52 , Io Dodds

Conservative pundits, activists, and politicians have continued to spread the unfounded claim that Moreno was a transgender woman, even after it was kiboshed by police.

The Houston Police department said in a press conference on Monday afternoon that although Moreno had sometimes gone by the alias "Jeffrey Escalante", she appeared to have always "identified as female".

There is also no mention of a trans identity in Moreno's divorce documents, and and police have confirmed that she was the biological mother of her son.

But that did not stop the likes of conservative crusader Chris Rufo, anti-LGBT+ activist Chaya Raichik, Donald Trump Jr, and even Texas senator Ted Cruz from latching onto the idea.

"Per capita, violent trans extremists have to have become the most violent group of people anywhere in the world," said Don Jr on X, formerly Twitter, on Tuesday morning.

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Ms Raichik, who runs the Libs of TikTok account on X, has continued to call Moreno a "trans terrorist", without offering any evidence, even as she posted clips of other portions of Monday's press conference.

On Tuesday afternoon, nearly 12 hours after that conference, Mr Cruz shared one of Ms Raichik's posts with an emoji of a man covering his face with one hand.

The claim appears to have originated from the left-leaning broadcaster MSNBC, which claimed on Monday morning before the press conference that Moreno was "a Hispanic transgender woman".

Fox News followed that up with a headline claiming that Moreno "identified as [a] transgender woman". Both outlets have now nixed that claim.

No new details yet, say Houston police

Tuesday 13 February 2024 23:06 , Lauren Io Dodds

We just got a new statement from the Houston Police Department, although it does not offer any new details.

"We continue to receive inquiries for more details and specifics in the investigation since yesterday's news briefing," the department said.

"We understand the desire to receive more information in case. At this time, no other details are being released as this complex investigation is ongoing and still in its early stages."

Conservatives are increasingly blaming mass shootings on trans people

Tuesday 13 February 2024 23:50 , Io Dodds

Conservatives' embrace of debunked claims about Moreno being transgender is part of a gathering effort to blame LGBT+ people for gun violence in America.

Seizing on a number of recent shootings in which the alleged perpetrators appeared to be trans or non-binary, right-wing activists and influencers have increasingly begun to claim that trans people are a uniquely violent community.

"The modern trans movement is radicalising activists into terrorists," wrote Benny Johnson, a conservative YouTuber previously fired from BuzzFeed for plagiarism, after the 2023 Nashville shooting.

"Per capita, is there a more violent group of people anywhere in the world than radicalised trans activists?" wrote Donald Trump Jr after the Iowa high school shooting last month.

"This is happening a lot. Something is deeply wrong," said Elon Musk, the richest person in the world and the owner of X, formerly Twitter, who has become increasingly critical of trans rights since his own child transitioned.

Some right-wingers, including Republican congressman Paul Gosar, also falsely blamed a random trans woman living in Georgia for the 2022 Uvalde shooting.

But what data we have does not support the idea that trans people commit more mass shootings than others, according to a Reuters analysis last year.

There have been four recent shootings where there was evidence that a perpetrator was transgender or considering transition: in Aberdeen, Maryland in 2018; in Denver, Colorado in 2019; in Nashville, Tennessee in 2023; and in Iowa in January 2024.

One further example often touted by conservatives – the 2022 Colorado Springs shooting at an LGBT+ nightclub – is disputed. Although the shooter has said they identify as non-binary, prosecutors have said there is "zero evidence" that they did so before the shooting, and that they exhibited "extreme hatred" for LGBT+ people".

Meanwhile, the Gun Violence Archive lists more than 4,400 mass shootings in the US since 2013, some of which have more than one perpetrator. Of those, less than ten were known to be transgender as of last March, representing 0.11 per cent of the whole.

A US Secret Service analysis of 173 mass casualty attacks gave a higher estimate, saying that 2 per cent of perpetrators had been trans men. By contrast, around 96 per cent were cisgender (or non-trans) men.

The number of trans people in the US is uncertain, with estimates commonly clustering around 0.5 to 0.6 per cent.

What we know about Moreno's criminal past

Wednesday 14 February 2024 00:26 , Io Dodds

My colleague Kelly Rissman has been digging through Moreno's lengthy history of interactions with the law, which dates back nearly two decades before the shooting.

In 2009, she was arrested for assault causing bodily injury, and a year later she was arrested for forgery relating to a counterfeit $100 bill.

Meanwhile, the rifle she used to commit the shooting was legally purchased in December 2023 – even though she had been arrested for unlawfully carrying a weapon earlier that same year.

Read Kelly's full story here.

Moreno accused her family of hacking her online accounts

Wednesday 14 February 2024 00:59 , Io Dodds

Genesse Moreno had accused her former mother-in-law Walli Carranza of spying on her by hacking into her online accounts, according to court documents seen by The Independent.

In an application for a protection order in July 2022, Moreno asked a court to ban Ms Carranza from contacting her or her child (Ms Carranza's grandchild) in any way, or going within 200 yards of them, their house, or their school.

"Respondent is trying to make me have a nervous breakdown for me to reat due to my mental illness[.] Such could result within the spectrum of jail or mental hospital, thus her acquiring custody," Moreno wrote.

The specific accusations are hard to credit. She claimed that the Carranza family were spying on her by hacking into a laundry list of her online accounts, and also appeared to claim that she received harassing text messages from FBI director Christopher Wray.

We don't know Ms Carranza's response to these claims, but both Ms Carranza and her son Enrique – Moreno’s ex-husband – have said in court documents that Moreno suffered from schizophrenia and paranoid delusions, and accused her of severe abuse towards the young child.Ms Carranza also told ABC-13 that she unsuccessfully attempted to get guardianship of the couple's child.

'She has the right to own 40 guns and we can't do anything'

Wednesday 14 February 2024 01:40 , Io Dodds

A Texas child services investigator bluntly told Moreno's family that did not have the "bandwidth" or legal authority to handle her case, according to Ms Carranza's affidavit.

My colleague Andrea Cavallier writes:

“The January 2020 incident with the open car door led to Moreno's case being handed over to a high risk investigator from the Montgomery County Department of Child and Family Services (DCFS).

“But according to Ms Carranza, the investigator was less than helpful.

“’I have children who were set on fire by their parents, so I don’t have the bandwidth to handle the case of a mother who can’t remember to shut the back door,’ he allegedly said.

“‘I don’t know why they assigned this to me. Guns are legal in Texas, and you don’t have to have a license for them. She has the right to own 40 of them and we can’t do anything about it.’

“He then described meeting with Moreno at her mother's house, only to find that the child was not present.

“‘She refused to tell us where she was living or with whom. So, we can’t tell you where [the child] is because she won’t tell us... we told her to bring him to the office tomorrow.’

“One week later, Moreno had still not reported to the DCFS office, and ’due to staffing shortages’ there was no follow-up. “

We’re attempting to contact the DCFS for comment.

Conroe police deny any failings in dealing with shooter

Wednesday 14 February 2024 02:24 , Io Dodds

Officials in Conroe, Texas are still being tight-lipped about Sunday's shooting and their past interactions with Moreno.

According to ABC-13, Conroe mayor Jody Czajkoski did not return requests for comment, and the Montgomery County district attorney's office referred questions to police.

For their part, the Conroe Police Department said it had reviewed all prior dealings with or about Moreno and determined that it had acted correctly.

"The review revealed that Conroe police personnel handled the calls appropriately and according to law," the department said.

"Nothing relayed to officers would give authority to arrest or require mental health emergency detention; nor would any of the information have been an indication that the suspect would commit such a heinous crime.

"The Conroe Police Department has no further information to share at this time. "

What is Munchausen Syndrome by proxy?

Wednesday 14 February 2024 02:58 , Io Dodds

One of the accusations made during Moreno's divorce case is that she was deliberately making her own son sick in order to pretend that his illness was more serious than it was.

In medical circles, this is known as Munchausen Syndrome by proxy – also referred to as "factitious disorder imposed on another".

"It is a psychiatric disorder in which the individual is fully cognisant of what they're doing, but very deliberately induces illness," Harvard Medical School professor Cathy Ayoub told Fox 26.

Clinical social worker Donna Boswell described such people as "operating with a great deal of deception and manipulation".

According to one court document seen by Fox, nurses found "adult pills" in her son's feeding tube on two occasions while he was in hospital.

The documents even claim that some medical professionals feared Moreno had intentionally caused her son to be born prematurely in order to induce health problems.

Police called to Moreno's home six times in three years

Wednesday 14 February 2024 03:41 , Io Dodds

The Conroe Police Department says it received at least six calls for service to Moreno's home over the past three years before the shooting.

The subjects of those calls spanned the gamut from welfare checks, through noise disturbances and loud music, to threats and harassment, according to KHOU-11.

However, the department did not give further details of the calls.

Video shows Moreno loading her car before the attack

Wednesday 14 February 2024 04:35 , Lauren Io Dodds

New videos obtained by ABC 13 show Genesse Moreno apparently preparing to commit the Lakewood Church shooting just hours before the violence began.

The videos, taken from a neighbour's home CCTV camera in Conroe, a northern suburb of Houston, show Moreno loading up her car from inside her garage while using a blue tarp to conceal her work.

At one point, she can be seen walking around her car with a brown trench coat folded over her arm. Moreno reportedly wore a trench coat during the attack.

Genesse Moreno seen in CCTV footage from a neighbour, obtained by ABC 13 (ABC 13)
Genesse Moreno seen in CCTV footage from a neighbour, obtained by ABC 13 (ABC 13)

Texas Republicans have long opposed red flag laws

Wednesday 14 February 2024 05:56 , Io Dodds

Texas politicians have long refused to consider so-called "red flag laws", which gun control activists claim could help prevent tragedies like this one.

Red flag laws allow a judge to temporarily ban someone from buying or possessing a firearm if their behaviour posses an imminent risk to themselves or others.

21 states currently have such laws on the books, with one study finding that California's law was applied to 58 people who threatened mass shootings within its first three years.

But even though 65 per cent of Texans supported such laws as of 2022, the state’s Republican-dominated legislature has steered well clear of them.

According to The Texas Tribune, governor Greg Abbott tried to pass a red flag law in the aftermath of the 2018 Santa Fe school shooting, but had to abandon the idea after a backlash from his rightward flank.

And in an interview with ABC 13 on Tuesday, State representative Matthew Schaefer called such efforts "pre-crime laws".

"When people talk about red flag laws, they're talking about taking away someone's Second Amendment rights before any crime has been committed," Mr Schaefer said.

"If a crime is being alleged or being committed, our law covers that.”

Shooter 'constantly moved house so her child could not be found'

Wednesday 14 February 2024 08:15 , Io Dodds

Court documents filed by Genesse Moreno's former mother-in-law paint a bleak picture of Moreno's life and her treatment of her young son.

In an affidavit filed in 2022, and seen by The Independent, Walli Carranza alleged that Moreno had moved house every few months since her son was born in 2017, returning regularly to her mother's house in order to collect a disability check.

The document accuses Moreno of repeatedly lying about where she and her son were living, and "constantly threaten[ing]" to abduct him out of the state or out of the country.

It also accuses Moreno of filing a false birth certificate which did not list her ex-husband Enrique Carranza as the father, claiming instead that the father was dead and that she did not know his name.

Despite this, Ms Carranza says that her son's hands were tied because he did not want to file criminal charges against her lest she be deported from the US, potentially along with her severely disabled son.

ICYMI: 'She has the right to own 40 guns and we can't do anything'

Wednesday 14 February 2024 09:19 , Io Dodds

A Texas child services investigator bluntly told the shooter’s family that did not have the "bandwidth" or legal authority to handle her case, according to court documents seen by The Independent.

An affidavit filed by Genesse Moreno’s former mother in law Walli Carranza alleges that Moreno, who reportedly suffered from schizophrenia, was abusive towards her former husband and her child, and was investigated in January 2020 for child neglect and endangerment.

Despite this, an investigator from the county allegedly told Ms Carranza: “I have children who were set on fire by their parents, so I don’t have the bandwidth to handle the case of a mother who can’t remember to shut the back door.

"I don’t know why they assigned this to me. Guns are legal in Texas, and you don’t have to have a license for them. She has the right to own 40 of them and we can’t do anything about it.”

Ms Carranza has accused local authorities of failing to prevent an entirely preventable tragedy.

ICYMI: Neighbours claim shooter intimidated them with Nazi salutes

Wednesday 14 February 2024 10:14 , Io Dodds

Genesse Moreno’s neighbours say that she intimidated them with guns and made Nazi salutes for several years before the shooting, my colleague Andrea Cavallier reports.

Residents in Conroe – a north Houston suburb – told local reports that Moreno was often seen with multiple guns, harassing and threatening them and making them fearful in their own neighbourhood.

“Her way of intimidation was to bring the gun cases in and out, crossbows. She’d come out, have her gun cases, do heil Hitler, flip you off, call you the b-word, or something. It was something every day,” one neighbour told KPRC, a Houston TV news station.

Another neighbour said Moreno had scrawled swastikas on her property and taunted her and her grandchildren multiple times. Another claimed she tried to run them over.

“I’ve been through hell. I have reported this, reported this and its gone on deaf ears,” said one neighbour, who gave her name as Jill. “I’ve had psychological officers out here that won’t answer their door. They won’t do anything. [They say,] ‘until she hurts you there is nothing we can do’.”

You can read Andrea’s full story here.

Neighbours break silence about Lakewood Church shooter’s disturbing behaviour

What we know, three days after the shooting

Wednesday 14 February 2024 11:00 , Io Dodds

Good morning. More evidence has emerged about Lakewood Church shooter Genesse Moreno and her long history of alleged mental health problems and brushes with the law.

According to court documents seen by The Independent, Moreno – who reportedly suffered from schizophrenia – was repeatedly accused of endangering and abusing her young son, as well as abusing her husband.

But a social worker told relatives that he didn't have the "bandwidth" to deal with her case and that Texas law meant there was nothing he could do about her habit of buying, and allegedly threatening people with, firearms.

Meanwhile, high-profile conservatives including Don Jr and Ted Cruz have embraced the groundless claim that Moreno was transgender, even after it was rebuked by Houston police.

We'll continue to update you as more information emerges.

Lakewood shooter’s ex mother-in-law slams Texas gun laws for failing her seven-year-old grandson

Wednesday 14 February 2024 12:16 , Rachel Sharp

The former mother-in-law of the Lakewood Church shooter has slammed Texasgun laws and the state’s child protective services for failing her seven-year-old grandson, as he lies fighting for his life in hospital.

Genesse Moreno, 36, drove with her young son to Joel Osteen’s megachurch in Houston on Sunday 11 February, where she then opened fire with an AR-15 rifle.

Moreno was fatally shot by two off-duty police officers who returned fire.

Her seven-year-old son was also caught in the crosshairs, and suffered a gunshot wound to the head.

Walli Carranza, Moreno’s former mother-in-law, has since taken to Facebook to speak about the “completely preventable horror” the family is now facing.

Read the full story:

Lakewood shooter’s mother-in-law slams Texas gun laws for failing grandson

What was the motive?

Wednesday 14 February 2024 12:36 , Rachel Sharp

The motive for the shooting has not yet been determined by police.

Authorities said they had “uncovered antisemitic writings” penned by Moreno. On top of this, police noted that there appeared to be a “familial dispute” between Moreno and her ex-husband’s family — some of whom are Jewish.

Police also said at Monday’s press conference that a sticker reading “Palestine” was stuck on the weapon used in the shooting.

In addition to a reported mental health history, Genesse Moreno also had a criminal history – dating from 2005 through 2022 – and she used several aliases including both male and female names, police said. However, “all the investigation to this point, she has been identified the entire time as female”, police said.

Interestingly, most of her arrests are listed under the name Jeffery Escalante — with the middle name Genesse.

The 2022 misdemeanour weapons charges, however, listed her as Genesse Moreno. Her driver’s license also used this name, police said.

Other outlets revealed that in March 2020, Moreno posted a screenshot of a letter from the megachurch thanking her for her donation. The Independent has not independently verified the post, as her social media accounts have been taken down, but has contacted the Houston Police Department.

The investigation is still ongoing. Police stressed that Moreno acted as a “lone wolf.”

WATCH: Lakewood congregation runs for cover as gunshots heard inside megachurch

Wednesday 14 February 2024 13:18 , Rachel Sharp

The shooter’s mental health concerns

Wednesday 14 February 2024 13:40 , Rachel Sharp

There are questions circulating about how Moreno was able to legally purchase a firearm, especially as recently as December, due to her history of mental health concerns.

Police said on Monday that Moreno was placed under an emergency detention order by officers in 2016 and has a mental health history “documented” by Houston police.

Divorce records from Montgomery County obtained by local outlets also painted a picture of an alleged history of mental health issues.

The records state that Child Protective Services investigated the family a number of times and found that Moreno was diagnosed as “schizophrenic” and had a “history of erratic paranoid, stalking behaviour and was diagnosed as exhibiting Munchausen by proxy”.

No one else was killed in the shooting, although a seven-year-old boy is in critical condition

She once stored a loaded gun in her then-three-year-old son’s diaper bag, the records state.

The records also state that Moreno’s ex-husband is a registered sex offender and that her son has special needs.

On her social media accounts, the shooter described herself as the founder of a real estate and financial services firm, according to ABC13 and CNN.

Shooter’s criminal history

Wednesday 14 February 2024 14:00 , Rachel Sharp

Moreno has a long criminal record filled with previous arrests for assault, marijuana possession, forgery, theft, evading and unlawful carrying of a weapon, according to criminal history records obtained by Fox26.

She was first arrested in 2005 on a misdemeanour charge.

Her latest arrest before the shooting occurred in 2022, according to the records, for unlawfully carrying a weapon and received two days in jail.

Moreno used several aliases, using both male and female names. However, police said that: “All the investigation to this point, she has been identified the entire time as female.”

One of her aliases was the name Jeffrey Escalante – and several of her arrests are under this name.

Shooter’s ex-mother-in-law claimed she kept son ‘infantilized’

Wednesday 14 February 2024 14:45 , Andrea Cavallier

Rabbi Walli Carranza, who is the paternal grandmother of the child who was with his mother, Genesse Moreno on the day of the shooting, said she “kept him infantilized.”

“She kept him with a feeding tube for years when it was supposed to come out in weeks,” Ms Carranza told KPRC following Sunday’s shooting as the boy remains in critical condition.

She said Moreno disappeared when she was pregnant with the boy and gave birth without the father knowing. She added that she allegedly did not take her medication when she was pregnant.

Ms Carranza also said that Moreno put on the birth certificate that the father was dead. It took the family several years to correct this, she said.

Ms Carranza currently has the power of attorney for the boy, who has special needs. She has repeatedly said she believes the state failed her grandson after reported red flags were ignored.

The boy, who is now seven years old, remains in critical condition. She describes him as having the sweetest soul.

“He’s a hugger. He’s a smiler. He’s an embracer of life. There’s a lot of intelligence in him that needs to be nurtured,” Ms Carranza said.

“We were the family that was trying to throw up the red flags and saying, please help. Here we are. This was predictable and this was preventable.”

Lakewood church shooter had a lengthy record

Wednesday 14 February 2024 15:30 , Andrea Cavallier

Moreno had a lengthy criminal record in Harris County, where Houston is located, the Associated Press reported.

Under the names Jeffery Escalante-Moreno or Jeffery Escalante, she was charged in six criminal cases from 2005 to 2011.

The charges ranged from forging a $100 bill, to stealing socks, hats and makeup, to assault for kicking a detention officer. The August 2009 assault conviction sent Moreno to jail for 180 days.

In a rambling 2022 application for a protective order against Moreno’s ex-mother-in-law that Moreno wrote without help from an attorney, Moreno complained of being threatened and followed and claimed to have received text messages from FBI Director Christopher Wray, the Associated Press reported.

A separate court filing in which the ex-mother-in-law sought to be named conservator of Moreno’s son, she alleged that Moreno was mentally ill and that the child was being neglected and abused.

Lakewood shooter ‘donated money to megachurch’ before shooting

Wednesday 14 February 2024 16:15 , Andrea Cavallier

Moreno reportedly donated money to the Texas megachurch years before she took her seven-year-old son to the religious institution and opened fire inside.

In March 2020, she posted on social media a screenshot of a letter from Lakewood Church thanking her for her donation.

Moreno’s social media accounts have since been taken down.

Read more:

Lakewood shooter ‘donated money to megachurch’ before attack

Are there any new updates on the Lakewood Church shooting?

Wednesday 14 February 2024 17:15 , Andrea Cavallier

There have been no new updates in the Lakewood Church shooting investigation, Houston Police said in a tweet on Tuesday.

Any updates will be posted to the department’s social media pages.

Chilling video shows Genesse Moreno just hours before shooting

Wednesday 14 February 2024 17:45 , Andrea Cavallier

New video shows Genesse Moreno just hours before she walked inside Joel Osteen’s megachurch on Sunday and opened fire.

Despite her long history with mental illness, she had been able to legally purchase the gun.

The footage obtained by ABC13 and taken from a neighbour’s home CCTV camera in Conroe, a northern suburb of Houston, show Moreno loading up her car from inside her garage while using a blue tarp to conceal her work.

At one point, she can be seen walking around her car with a brown trench coat folded over her arm. Moreno reportedly wore a trench coat during the attack.

Genesse Moreno seen in CCTV footage from a neighbour, obtained by ABC 13 (ABC 13)
Genesse Moreno seen in CCTV footage from a neighbour, obtained by ABC 13 (ABC 13)

Genesse Moreno’s neighbours say that she intimidated them with guns and Nazi salutes

Wednesday 14 February 2024 18:20 , Andrea Cavallier

The Lakewood Church shooter reportedly terrorized her neighbours for years before she opened fire inside Joel Osteen’s megachurch on Sunday.

“Her way of intimidation was to bring the gun cases in and out, crossbows. She’d come out, have her gun cases, do heil Hitler, flip you off, call you the b-word, or something. It was something every day,” one neighbour told KPRC, a Houston TV news station.

Another neighbour said Moreno had scrawled swastikas on her property and taunted her and her grandchildren multiple times. Another claimed she tried to run them over.

“I’ve been through hell. I have reported this, reported this and its gone on deaf ears,” said one neighbour, who gave her name as Jill. “I’ve had psychological officers out here that won’t answer their door. They won’t do anything. [They say,] ‘until she hurts you there is nothing we can do’.”

How the shooter bought a rifle despite history of mental illness is under scrutiny

Wednesday 14 February 2024 18:45 , Andrea Cavallier

Authorities say they’re reviewing how Genesse Moreno, who opened fire at a Houston megachurch was able to legally purchase and obtain the AR-style rifle used in the attack despite a years-long criminal record and a history of mental illness.

Read more:

How Texas church shooter bought rifle despite mental illness and criminal history is under scrutiny

Misinformation claims about shooter continues to spread even after being kiboshed by police

Wednesday 14 February 2024 21:03 , Andrea Cavallier

Conservative pundits, activists, and politicians have continued to spread the unfounded claim that the Lakewood church shooter was a transgender woman – even after it was kiboshed by police.

Houston police said in a press conference on Monday that, although Moreno had sometimes gone by the alias “Jeffrey Escalante”, their investigations so far had found no evidence that she had ever identified as any gender other than female.

The Independent has also found no mention of any trans identity in court documents from Moreno’s past divorce and child custody battle, and police have confirmed that she was the biological mother of her son.

But that did not stop conservative crusader Chris Rufo, anti-LGBT+ activist Chaya Raichik, Donald Trump Jr, and even Texas Senator Ted Cruz from latching onto the idea.

Io Dodds reports:

Ted Cruz and Don Jr boost debunked claim that Lakewood shooter was a trans woman

Genesse Moreno reportedly suffered from Munchausen Syndrome by proxy: court docs

Wednesday 14 February 2024 22:00 , Andrea Cavallier

There were accusations made by Genesse Moreno’s former mother-in-law in court documents that Moreno suffered from Munchausen Syndrome by proxy, and was making her own seven-year-old son sick.

The child, who is special needs, was with Moreno when she walked into Joel Osteen’s megachurch in Houston on Sunday and began firing. The child was struck when he was caught in an exchange of gunfire between Moreno and two off-duty cops.

“Nurses found adult pills in (her son’s) endotracheal tube while he was in the hospital. Then more adult pills were found in his feeding tube,” according to the court documents.

The child who was not potty trained was non-verbal, and “suffered by his mother ignoring medical advice, not taking him to therapy for eating, speech, and not giving him any social interaction,” the documents stated.

Could a red flag law have stopped the Lakewood Church shooting?

Wednesday 14 February 2024 23:00 , Andrea Cavallier

In the days since Genesse Moreno entered the megachurch on Sunday and opened fire, information has increasingly emerged about her mental health and criminal history – raising questions around whether something could have been done to have prevented the shooting.

Police said she had legally purchased the AR-15 rifle in December 2023 — despite the fact that court records show that in 2022, she was arrested for a weapons misdemeanour charge.

While more details continue to emerge as the investigation continues, all eyes are turning to Texas’ lax gun laws – particularly the state’s absence of red flag laws.

Gun safety advocates are raising the question as to whether red flag laws — also known as extreme risk protection orders — could have prevented the shooting.

Twenty-one states have implemented red flag laws — but Texas isn’t one of them.

Kelly Rissman reports:

Could a red flag law in Texas have stopped the Lakewood Church shooting?

What is the red flag law?

00:00 , Andrea Cavallier

Across the US, 21 states have enacted red flag laws, which allow for law enforcement — or family members or health professionals, in some states — to intervene if someone shows signs that they are a danger to themselves or others.

A court can temporarily take away the individual’s guns or prevent them from buying one.

The issue in the case of the Lakewood Church case is that, in Texas, there is no red flag law.

Had there been a red flag law, Moreno might have been prevented from purchasing an AR-15 in December 2023 — just two months before she opened fire with that very same gun in the megachurch.

When loved ones or law enforcement officials file a petition asking a court to intervene, the judge will consider a few risk factors. These risk factors, according to gun safety groups, often include a pattern or recent threats of violence, history of dangerous behaviour with firearms, substance abuse, or recent firearm acquisition.

Aside from substance abuse, Moreno’s behaviour appears to fit these risk factors to a tee: Her recent acquisition of a gun, her alleged fits of violence reported by family members, and dangerous behaviour with a firearm – such as reportedly threatening her husband or the misdemeanour weapons charge.

Texas State rep said shooting is ‘why we need red flag laws’

01:00 , Andrea Cavallier

In the wake of Sunday’s shooting, Texas State Rep Gene Wu wrote on X: “This is WHY we need RED FLAG laws! Every single person in the Lakewood shooter’s life thought that there’s no way she should have ever been allowed to buy a gun. But Texas law allowed her. Republicans made sure of it.”

The shooter’s own family has also blamed the lack of gun control in the state of Texas.

Genesse Moreno’s neighbours said they ‘lived in hell’ being near her

03:00 , Andrea Cavallier

Moreno’s neighbours say that she intimidated them with guns and made Nazi salutes for several years before the shooting, my colleague Andrea Cavallier reports.

Residents in Conroe – a north Houston suburb – told local reports that Moreno was often seen with multiple guns, harassing and threatening them and making them fearful in their own neighbourhood.

“Her way of intimidation was to bring the gun cases in and out, crossbows. She’d come out, have her gun cases, do heil Hitler, flip you off, call you the b-word, or something. It was something every day,” one neighbour told KPRC, a Houston TV news station.

Another neighbour said Moreno had scrawled swastikas on her property and taunted her and her grandchildren multiple times. Another claimed she tried to run them over.

“I’ve been through hell. I have reported this, reported this and its gone on deaf ears,” said one neighbour, who gave her name as Jill. “I’ve had psychological officers out here that won’t answer their door. They won’t do anything. [They say,] ‘until she hurts you there is nothing we can do’.”

Why did the shooter choose Lakewood Church to target?

05:00 , Andrea Cavallier

Moreno’s former mother in law has said she has “no idea” why Moreno chose Lakewood Church as her target.

In an interview with ABC 13, Wallia Carranza said the woman who opened fire in the church had changed enormously from the person whose son married back in 2016.

“Why she went to Lakewood, I have no idea. They’re Protestants,” said Ms Carranza. “The anti-Semitic part says she would have went to a synagogue.”

Who is Joel Osteen?

07:00 , Andrea Cavallier

Joel Osteen regularly preaches to about 45,000 people a week in Lakewood Church – the scene of Sunday’s shooting – which is a former basketball arena and he’s known to millions more through his television sermons.

Osteen inherited his calling from his father and increased the size of the congregation almost five-fold.

His book, “Your Best Life Now: 7 Steps to Living Your Full Potential” sold nearly 3 million copies.

In the mid-2000s, Osteen was viewed by more people than any preacher in the United States, reaching 95 percent of all households, according to Nielsen Media Research.

Mr Osteen said that the shooting on Sunday had left him “kind of in a fog” but said his community will “stay strong”.

“We don’t understand why these things happen, but we know God is in control,” Osteen said.

“We are going to pray for the little five-year-old boy and the lady that was deceased, her family, and the other gentlemen,” he added.

The pastor said that he could have only imagined what would have happened if the incident had happened during the 11am service, as at the time of the shooting, the church was changing over services.

“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,” Mr Osteen added in a statement later on.

Lakewood Church used to be home to an NBA team – now it’s a crime scene

09:00 , Andrea Cavallier

Lakewood Church is situated in the Compaq Centre, a venue so big it used to be the home of the NBA’s Houston Rockets.

More than 45,000 weekly visitors attend the megachurch, which includes a 16,000-seat auditorium and reaches even more worshippers on international broadcasts.

What may entice many worshippers is also pastor Joel Osteen, a successful television producer-turned-religious leader after his father, John Osteen, also a famed pastor, unexpectedly died, leading to Joel taking over as senior pastor at Lakewood Church in 1999.

 (AP)
(AP)

When a church becomes a crime scene

12:00 , Andrea Cavallier

One of America’s largest Christian churches became the scene of a crime when a woman entered armed with an AR-15 rifle – and her seven-year-old son – and began shooting.

The shooter who opened fire inside Joel Osteen’s Lakewood Church in Houston has been identified by police as Genesse Ivonne Moreno – a 36-year-old “lone wolf” who allegedly took her own son to the church before embarking on the shooting using an assault-style rifle with the word “Palestine” across it.

While the motive for the shooting remains unclear, investigators said that Moreno had a sticker which read “Palestine” on the butt stock of the rifle.

Here’s what we know:

What we know about the Lakewood Church shooting in Texas

What happened to the Lakewood Church victims?

14:00 , Andrea Cavallier

The child who was injured in the incident is currently at the Texas Children’s Hospital where he remains in critical condition.

Police said the boy, who has not been named, is the biological son of Moreno.

But it remains unclear who shot the child.

Another victim, a 57-year-old man, was also shot in the hip and was also taken to hospital for treatment. He had been released by Monday afternoon.

Officials praised the “valour” and heroism of the two officers who shot the suspect dead, saying that more lives would have been lost if it weren’t for them.

“What happened yesterday was the personification of heroism and valor,” said Kevin Lilly, chairman of TABC, adding that the two off-duty officers “held ground” in the face of a rifle pointing at them at “point blank range”.

Lakewood shooter ‘donated money to megachurch’ before shooting

16:05 , Andrea Cavallier

Moreno reportedly donated money to the Texas megachurch years before she took her seven-year-old son to the religious institution and opened fire inside.

In March 2020, she posted on social media a screenshot of a letter from Lakewood Church thanking her for her donation.

Moreno’s social media accounts have since been taken down.

Pastor Joel Osteen says services will resume on Sunday following shooting

16:45 , Andrea Cavallier

Lakewood Church’s pastor Joel Osteen posted a video to social media encouraging churchgoers to return to the megachurch on Sunday following last week’s shooting.

“The Lord is our strength. Let’s come together this weekend at Lakewood for A Special Service of Healing, Prayer, and Unity,” he said.

Osteen invited people to attend the special service to celebrate a “time of healing and restoration.”

“We are not people of fear. We are people of faith. God has us in the palm of his hand, and this is not the time to shrink back. This is the time to turn to God, to rally together,” Osteen said.

Houston mayor calls for focus on mental illness, 'Red Flag Law' following shooting

17:30 , Andrea Cavallier

Mayor John Whitmire is calling for action in response to the armed attack on Lakewood Church last Sunday.

He said there are lessons to be learned from the loss of the life of the shooter – a 36-year-old mom who allegedly suffered from mental illness and was able to purchase a gun despite her criminal background – and a need for more psychological care and new limits on firearm possession by those failing to behave rationally.

“She was someone’s daughter. It’s just sad to listen to her neighbors talk about the concern over her behavior. That just, we as a society and certain agencies didn’t respond, and red flag laws are certainly one possible addition to our tool kit,” Mr Whitmire said.

Mr Whitmire says he attempted, but failed to pass a “red flag law” banning sale of firearms to people with a documented history of mental illness.

He also extended his thanks to the officers who intervened.

“The two heroes, Christopher Moreno, an HPD officer, and Adrian Herrera, TABC, confronted the suspect, and we know it would have probably been worse because of the nature of her assault rifle and amount of ammunition,” Mr Whitmire said.

Shooter’s son is ‘doing better’ after being shot in Lakewood Church attack

18:30 , Andrea Cavallier

The former mother-in-law of the woman who opened fire at a Houston megachurch told Fox7 that her grandson who was injured in the shooting is still in critical condition but is doing better.

The seven-year-old boy got caught up in an exchange of gunfire when Genesse Moreno opened fire at Joel Osteen’s megachurch but was gunned down by two off-duty cops. Her son was struck in the head.

Walli Carranza discusses the mental health struggles that her former daughter-in-law, Genesse Moreno, dealt with before the shooting (Copyright 2024 The Associated Press. All rights reserved)
Walli Carranza discusses the mental health struggles that her former daughter-in-law, Genesse Moreno, dealt with before the shooting (Copyright 2024 The Associated Press. All rights reserved)

Rabbi Walli Carranza believes systemic failures and lax gun laws led to Sunday’s shooting. She said she tried for years to alert authorities about Moreno’s mental health struggles.

"You can’t put responsibility on the mind, when the mind was so very ill. A healthy mother would never bring her child to a situation like this. That’s not mental health. So sometimes we don’t have to find a guilty party or place blame. We can just say there are systems that failed," Ms Carranza told The Associated Press in an interview.

Disturbing posts surface from shooter’s alleged social media account in 2022

19:30 , Andrea Cavallier

Posts that featured hate speech and threats allegedly written by Lakewood Church shooter Genesse Moreno were uncovered this week just days after authorities said they found antisemitic writings during their investigation.

KHOU 11 found the writings along with photos of a woman who appeared to be Moreno with guns on a profile on X, formerly known as Twitter.

The account was only active for five days in 2022 between 28 November and 2 December.

More than 50 posts that appeared to be written by Moreno were posted at that time, many of which were reportedly hostile toward Jewish people, the news outlet reported.

At least three posts mentioned Moreno’s ex-mother-in-law by name and referenced the fact that she’s Jewish.

Houston police would not confirm to KHOU 11 that the account belonged to Moreno due to the pending investigation. But other sources confirmed to the outlet the X account is connected to Moreno.

 (KHOU 11)
(KHOU 11)

Genesse Moreno was hospitalized for schizophrenia, affidavit alleges

20:30 , Andrea Cavallier

Moreno, who had a history of mental illness, had been placed under an emergency detention order by Houston police officers in 2016, Houston Police Department Homicide Division Cmdr. Christopher Hassig said during a news conference on Monday following Sunday’s shooting.

Moreno’s former mother-in-law, Walli Carranza, unsuccessfully petitioned a court in Texas’ Montgomery County to be declared conservator of Moreno’s son in 2022.

In an affidavit filed in court related to that petition, Ms Carranza alleged a psychiatrist had placed a “red flag warning” on Moreno in 2016 after she had been hospitalized with schizophrenia.

“There were red flags for six years, and we raised them and we flew them high and nothing was done,” Ms Carranza said.

“We asked for help from (Child Protective Services). … We asked for help from police and received it many times but she was still allowed to own guns.”

It’s unclear why Ms Carranza’s conservatorship effort was not successful.