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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.


What we know, three days after the shooting

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.

Io Dodds14 February 2024 11:00

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

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

‘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,’ Walli Carranza wrote in a social media post

Rachel Sharp14 February 2024 12:16

What was the motive?

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.”

Rachel Sharp14 February 2024 12:36

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

Lakewood congregation runs for cover as gunshots heard inside megachurch
Rachel Sharp14 February 2024 13:18

The shooter’s 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

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.

Rachel Sharp14 February 2024 13:40

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.

Rachel Sharp14 February 2024 14:00

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

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.”

Andrea Cavallier14 February 2024 14:45

Lakewood church shooter had a lengthy record

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.

Andrea Cavallier14 February 2024 15:30

Lakewood shooter ‘donated money to megachurch’ before shooting

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

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

Andrea Cavallier14 February 2024 16:15

Are there any new updates on the Lakewood Church shooting?

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.

Andrea Cavallier14 February 2024 17:15

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