Crime

Lakewood Church shooting: Houston police examine suspect’s mental health, anti-Semitic writings

Police said suspect Genesse Ivonne Moreno, accompanied by her seven-year-old boy, was armed with an AR-style rifle. Houston police are still searching for a motive in Sunday’s shooting.

Lakewood church
Erica Smith/Houston Public Media
Emergency responders outside of Lakewood Church on Sunday, February 11, 2024 after an armed gunwoman entered the church.

Houston police are still searching for a motive in Sunday’s shooting at Lakewood Church, but said they have discovered a history of mental health challenges for the suspect and anti-Semitic writings she had done.

A 36-year-old woman identified as Genesse Ivonne Moreno entered the church around 2 p.m. Sunday after breaching a west side entrance. After opening fire with an AR-15, she exchanged gunfire with two off-duty officers at the scene and was shot and killed. A 7-year-old boy, who police said was Moreno’s son, was shot and critically injured. A 57-year-old man was shot in the leg by Moreno but discharged from the hospital on Monday after he was treated for his injuries.

Police could not say on Monday who shot the child in the crossfire, but that he remains hospitalized in critical condition. Police for the first time said the 7-year-old boy was shot in the head.

Moreno used a rifle with a “Palestine” sticker on the butt stock, Chris Hassig, commander of Houston Police Department’s homicide division said.

“We have uncovered some items, we do have some anti-Semitic writings that we have uncovered during this process,” Hassig said. “But like I said, we are 24 hours into it. It is very new. We are getting new information as the hours change.”

Police emphasized a motive had not been officially determined, even with the new information they shared.

“We do believe that there was a familial dispute that has taken place between her ex-husband and ex-husband’s family, and some of those individuals are Jewish,” Hassig said. “So we believe that might be where all of this stems from.”

Police also discussed Moreno’s mental health history. She was placed under an emergency detention order by officers in 2016, and said she has a history of dealing with mental illness.

Officials said Moreno acted alone and is not part of a larger group. They also confirmed Moreno, a Hispanic female, had used multiple aliases — including some male, including the name Jeffrey Escalante, Hassig said.

Just hours after Moreno charged the west entrance doors armed with an AR-15 at Lakewood Church in Houston on Sunday afternoon, police executed a search warrant at a Conroe home they believe was connected to the shooter, Connor Hagan, a public affairs officer with FBI Houston said Monday.

Police on Sunday afternoon responded to calls of shots fired at the church of Joel Osteen in the 3700 block of Southwest Freeway in Houston. In addition to firing the AR-15, Moreno also threatened she had a bomb, police said. Moreno seemed to be holding a yellow colored rope and substances consistent with the manufacture of explosive devices, which appeared to be a detonation cord, according to the search warrant. But Police Chief Troy Finner said no explosives were found upon conducting a search.

“[Affiant] is at this time unable to determine whether Moreno’s threat of possession of a bomb is currently credible,” according to the warrant.

The Texas Alcoholic Beverage Commission said Agent Adrian Herrera was one of the off-duty security officers who shot the suspect at the church when the woman opened fire with a rifle in the lobby of the building. The other officer was with the Houston Police Department.

Per agency policy, Herrera was placed on paid administrative leave pending the outcome of an internal investigation by the commission.

RELATED: Lakewood Church shooting: Female shooter dead, young child and man injured at Houston megachurch

"It could've been a lot worse," Osteen said at a press conference Sunday evening. "Of course we're devastated. We have been here 65 years and had somebody shooting in our church. We don't understand why these things happen but we know God is in control."

Joslyn Romero, who attended church service Sunday, said she locked and barricaded herself in the bathroom after hearing the gunshots.

“We entered and all we heard were very loud gunshots and we noticed people starting to run and yell, and then once we heard that we kind of just froze up and noticed that the gunshots were continuing,” she said. “They were not stopping.”

“It was truly, truly scary,” she said.