Lakewood church shooter’s disturbing social media and criminal past revealed

The 36-year-old mother had a lengthy criminal history dating back nearly 20 years before the megachurch shooting

Kelly Rissman
Tuesday 13 February 2024 23:11 GMT

The Lakewood Church shooter, identified as Genesse Moreno, had an extensive criminal history long before the megachurch shooting that left her dead and her son and one other injured, contributing to the unfinished puzzle of who the shooter was.

Moreno walked into Joel Osteen’s megachurch on Sunday alongside her seven-year-old son. She fired her AR-15 rifle, prompting two off-duty officers to fire back. They fatally shot Moreno. Her child and a 57-year-old man were also wounded during the exchange; the child is in critical condition and the man was released from hospital.

The 36-year-old mother had a lengthy criminal history dating back nearly two decades before this week’s shooting.

The rifle she used to commit the shooting was legally purchased in December 2023, authorities said. However, earlier in 2023, she was arrested for a misdemeanour – unlawful carrying of a weapon, Fort Bend court records show. It’s unclear how she was able to possess the weapon, given those circumstances.

It’s also unclear what name Moreno used to make the purchase.

Although police said her driver’s licence — with the name Genesse Moreno — was recovered, she used other aliases, including male and female names. However, “all the investigation to this point, she has been identified the entire time as female”, police said at Monday’s press conference. Court records also mark Moreno as female.

At least five arrests in Harris County are listed under the name Jeffery G Escalante — with the middle initial standing for Genesse.

In 2005, she was arrested for failure to stop and give information. Four years later, she was arrested for assault – bodily injury. A year later, in 2010, she was arrested again for forgery, regarding a counterfeit $100 bill.

Genesse Moreno
Genesse Moreno (Supplied)

That same year, she was arrested for theft and possessing marijuana. Also in 2010, she was arrested once again for evading arrest.

Court records show that she and her then-husband, who is a registered sex offender, married in 2015.

The following year, Moreno was placed under an emergency detention order, authorities said, referring to her “documented” mental health history. Her former mother-in-law revealed on Facebook that Moreno had been taking medication for schizophrenia.

Years after they got married, the couple filed for divorce, which was finalised in 2022. In the midst of the divorce, Moreno filed for protective orders against her then-husband and his mother in 2022, records also indicate.

In divorce records obtained by ABC13, her husband said that she became “abusive” soon after they married; in these records, he referred to his wife as Jeffrey. She also accused him of abuse, the outlet reported.

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

It wasn’t until 2022 that she was arrested again, publicly available records in Texas suggest, over the misdemeanour weapons charge. There, she was listed as Genesse Moreno.

Moreno also had another weapon — a .22 calibre rifle — that police recovered from her bag after the shooting. It’s not immediately clear how she obtained that weapon.

The probe into the motive for the shooting is still ongoing — and a full picture of who Moreno was is still being put together.

Her LinkedIn profile states that she was a realtor. The Independent has reached out to the company that she listed as her employer to verify this information. Her name was not listed on the website under “agents” as of 13 February.

Moreno’s social media activity also provided some puzzle pieces. Although her accounts have since been taken down, ABC13 reported that Moreno had posted a photo on Instagram of a weapon with the caption asking if anyone knew how to “clean an AR-15”.

In March 2020, CNN reported, Moreno posted a screenshot of a letter from Lakewood Church thanking her for her donation — years before she carried out an attack at the same religious institution.

Investigators also said they had found “antisemitic writings” and noted that Moreno’s gun had the word “Palestine” written on it. Police noted that there appeared to be a “familial dispute” between Moreno and her ex-husband’s family — some of whom are Jewish.

Her former mother-in-law — Rabbi Walli Carranza — also weighed in on this, writing: “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!”

She instead attributed blame to the state’s laws and systems on top of Moreno’s mental state.

Ms Carranza wrote, “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.”

Texas Department of Family and Protective Services spokesperson Melissa Lanford told The Indpendent in a statement: “Child Protective Services is investigating the shooting at Lakewood Church alongside law enforcement. At this time, DFPS cannot provide additional information because specific details of investigations are confidential according to law.”

The investigation into the shooting is still ongoing.

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