A criminal past, multiple aliases and a megachurch donation: Who is Lakewood shooter Genesse Moreno?

Who really was Genesse Moreno and what was her motive for shooting up a Houston place of worship? Amelia Neath reports

Wednesday 14 February 2024 00:07 GMT
Genesse Moreno, 36, was identified as the shooter
Genesse Moreno, 36, was identified as the shooter (Supplied)

Genesse Ivonne Moreno’s name hit headlines this week after she entered Joel Osteen’s Lakewood Church and opened fire, in an attack that left her dead and her own seven-year-old son fighting for his life in hospital.

But she has been known by many other names.

Houston police revealed that the 36-year-old went by several aliases over the years.

Criminal records, seen by The Independent, show multiple arrests under a string of different names, including the male name Jeffrey Escalante.

In fact, Moreno had a lengthy criminal record stretching back almost 20 years.

She also had a history of mental health issues.

And she appears to have once donated to Osteen’s megachurch.

So who really was Moreno and what was her motive for opening fire at a Houston place of worship?

Lakewood Church shooter identified

The shooting

At around 1.53pm on Sunday 11 February, Moreno drove to the church in Houston along with her seven-year-old son.

Carrying a bag and wearing a trench coat, Moreno and the boy entered the building from the west side.

Police said that, once inside, Moreno opened fire with an AR-15 which had a sticker with the word “Palestine” on the butt of the firearm.

Two off-duty police officers confronted her and returned fire, killing her.

A 57-year-old man was shot in the leg and has since been released from hospital.

However, Moreno’s seven-year-old boy also suffered a gunshot wound to the head and is fighting for his life in Texas Children’s Hospital.

Police said that the shooter had been armed with two weapons – an AR-15 that she used during the shooting and a .22 calibre rifle.

The motive

Police are unclear as to what motivated Moreno to carry out the shootings – and why she targeted the church – although she appears to have once donated money to the megachurch.

A social media post from March 2020, seen by CNN, showed a screenshot of a letter from Lakewood Church thanking Moreno for a donation. The Independent has not been able to verify this and Moreno’s social media accounts have now been taken down.

Home in Conroe tied to Moreno where police carried out search (AP)

Christopher Hassig, with the Houston Police Department’s homicide unit, said at a press conference that Moreno had the word “Palestine” on her AR-15 and that they had also recovered some “antisemitic writings”.

At the time of the shooting, Moreno was in the middle of a familial dispute with her ex-husband and his family, who are Jewish, Mr Hassig said.

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

Despite this, officials are urging against speculating at this time, as the investigation is still in its 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.

Moreno has been described as a “lone wolf,” and the investigation so far believes she acted alone.

Shooter’s criminal history

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.

Genesse Moreno died at the scene after two off-duty police officers shot and killed her after she opened fired in the megachurch (Supplied)

Mental health concerns

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 (AP)

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.

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