Neighbors Say They Warned Cops About Megachurch Shooter

Her former mother-in-law is also speaking out
By Evann Gastaldo,  Newser Staff
Posted Feb 14, 2024 1:00 AM CST
Neighbors Say They Warned Cops About Megachurch Shooter
A home in Conroe, Texas, where officers from multiple agencies visited on Monday Feb. 12, 2024, hours after a shooting at Lakewood Church in Houston left a woman dead and a child critically wounded.   (Kirk Sides/Houston Chronicle via AP)

The neighbors of Genesse Ivonne Moreno, the woman who opened fire in Joel Osteen's Houston megachurch on Sunday before she was fatally shot by police, say they'd been trying to warn authorities about her for years. The six women held a news conference to describe the harassment and threats they were subjected to, saying Moreno had brandished guns and they felt scared to step outside, NBC News reports. The women say the Conroe Police Department should have done something to stop Moreno, but the department says all calls regarding her were handled properly: "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." Many more details are starting to come out about Moreno's past:

  • Former mother-in-law speaks out: Rabbi Walli Carranza, the shooter's former mother-in-law and the paternal grandmother of the 7-year-old boy who was with her when she entered the church (and who was critically injured in the shooting), tells Click 2 Houston that Moreno stabbed her son, with whom she was engaged in a custody battle over the boy, and that she "infantilized" the child, who has special needs. "She kept him with a feeding tube for years when it was supposed to come out in weeks," she says.

  • Mental health issues: Moreno's former mother-in-law also says Moreno suffered from schizophrenia and went off her medication while she was pregnant. Police, too, said she'd long struggled with mental illness, the Houston Chronicle reports. In 2016, she was placed under an emergency detention order, which happens when mental health issues cause a serious risk of harm.
  • Criminal history: The Chronicle and other outlets including Fox News report on Moreno's lengthy criminal history, including a conviction for assaulting a police officer in 2009. She'd been arrested at least six times since 2005, most recently in 2022, when weapons were found in her car during a traffic stop. The AR-15 she used in the shooting, however, had been legally purchased in December.
  • Contentious divorce: Moreno accused her ex-husband, Enrique Carranza, of abuse; he himself is a sex offender who referred in court documents to struggles due to Moreno's reported schizophrenia. Police suggested a "familial dispute" between Moreno, her ex, and his family may have led in some way to the shooting, but they have not yet speculated formally on a motive.
  • Aliases: Moreno was briefly described in some news articles as transgender, but officials have since clarified she has always identified as a woman, is the biological mother of the boy in question, and simply used aliases both male and female in her past. Her ex, for example, referred to her as "Jeffrey" in the court documents.

  • Antisemitism? Police say antisemitic writings were found at Moreno's home and inside the vehicle she drove to the church, and "Palestine" (not "Free Palestine," which was originally reported) was written on a sticker on her rifle. Some of her ex's family is Jewish, but Carranza says that while Moreno did make antisemitic comments about them in the past, she doesn't think the shooting was sparked by antisemitism: "This is what happens when reckless and irresponsible reporting lets people with severe mental illness have an excuse for violence," she wrote on Facebook. She says Moreno's mother attended the church where Moreno opened fire; KHOU reports Moreno herself also used to attend.
  • Status of the victims: The 57-year-old man who was struck by a bullet has been released from the hospital. The boy, who was shot in the head, Houston Public Media reports, is "fighting for his life," authorities say. It remains unclear whether he was hit by his mother's gunfire or by that of the two off-duty law enforcement officers who returned fire at the church, killing Moreno.
(More Houston stories.)

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