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

A motive for the shooting at the Houston megachurch remains unknown

Andrea Cavallier,Io Dodds
Thursday 15 February 2024 21:29 GMT
Lakewood church shooter used rifle with ‘Palestine’ sticker, police say

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.

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What is the motive for the shooting?

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.

Rachel Sharp13 February 2024 14:20
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Neighbours recall the red flags they noticed about Genesse Moreno

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.”

Neighbors of Lakewood Church shooter share thoughts
Andrea Cavallier13 February 2024 15:00
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Shooter allegedly accused son’s teacher of harassing him

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.”

Andrea Cavallier13 February 2024 15:20
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Lakewood shooter was allegedly abusive to her husband

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.

Church shooter had a history of mental illness

“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.

Andrea Cavallier13 February 2024 15:40
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Church shooter’s former mother-in-law claims system failed grandson

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.”

Andrea Cavallier13 February 2024 16:00
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Genesse Moreno pictured in mugshot

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)

Andrea Cavallier13 February 2024 16:20
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Who is the son of Lakewood Church shooter Genesse Moreno?

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.

Andrea Cavallier13 February 2024 16:40
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Shooter’s former mother-in-law says system failed her grandson

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.

Andrea Cavallier13 February 2024 17:00
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Lakewood shooter ‘donated money to megachurch’ before opening fire

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

The shooter’s son is still in the hospital after he suffered a gunshot wound in the head

Andrea Cavallier13 February 2024 17:20
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‘A completely preventable horror'

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.”

Io Dodds13 February 2024 19:30

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