The woman who opened fire at Joel Osteen's crowded mega-church near Houston has been identified as Genesse Ivonne Moreno, who had previously penned antisemitic writings, had a documented history of mental health issues, and used an AR-15 rifle with a "Palestine" sticker during the incident, authorities said on Monday.
Moreno entered Lakewood Church with a 7-year-old boy just before a scheduled Spanish-language service at 2 p.m. She took out her weapon and opened fire while hundreds of people were in the process of taking their seats. While the motive remains unclear, authorities, particularly Houston Police Commander Chris Hassig, said in a Monday news briefing that they suspect Moreno acted alone.
Out of the Blue
Moreno was schizophrenic with Munchausen-by-proxy. However, she was still able to legally purchase the AR-15 she used to unleash horror on Sunday. There is a possibility that the shooting is related to a dispute between Moreno and her ex-husband's family, some of whom are Jewish, according to Hassig.
On Monday, officials revealed that two off-duty officers providing security at the church, namely Houston cop Christopher Moreno (not related to the shooter) and Texas Alcoholic Beverage Commission Agent Adrian Herrera, responded by returning fire and fatally shooting Moreno.
Police Chief Troy Finner said that the young boy accompanying the shooter is currently "fighting for his life" after sustaining a gunshot wound to the head. He is hospitalized in critical condition.
When questioned about whether the child was shot by an officer, Finner refrained from speculating. However, he said on Sunday that Moreno, the suspect, placed the child in jeopardy, saying, "That female, that suspect, put that baby in danger. I'm going to put that blame on her."
The relationship between the young boy and Moreno, who is from El Salvador, was not immediately known.
Moreno, 36, had a lengthy criminal record dating back to 2005, which included charges of assault, weapons offenses, marijuana possession, and forgery. Authorities disclosed on Monday that she had a documented history of mental illness and had been placed under an emergency detention order in 2016.
Moreover, police revealed the discovery of anti-Semitic writings, indicating that Moreno had apparent issues with Jewish relatives.
"We do believe that there was a familial dispute that has taken place between her ex-husband and her ex-husband's family, some of whom are Jewish," police said in a press conference.
Moreno used multiple identities under both genders, and her preferred gender identification remains unclear. Despite this ambiguity, police said on Monday that she is believed to be the biological mother of the seven-year-old she brought into the church with her.
"She used multiple aliases including Jeffery Escalante... Houston police report she has identified this entire time as female. She/her," HPD Officer Christopher Hassig said.
Moreno was earlier arrested under the name Jeffery Escalante, according to local station KHOU
Court records from 2022 indicate that Moreno's ex-mother-in-law, Walli Carranza, accused Moreno and her mother of keeping the child away from his father, Enrique Carranza, who is presently in jail in Florida for failing to register as a sex offender.
Carranza alleged that Moreno had been diagnosed with schizophrenia and Munchausen by proxy. She claimed that Child Protective Services had investigated Moreno four times, finding her responsible for harming the child on two occasions.
However, Carranza did not appear in court, and despite this troubled history, a judge appointed Moreno as the managing conservator of the boy. The child is now fighting for his life after being shot in the head during the recent incident.
Texas officials revealed on Monday that, despite the troubling background, Moreno was legally able to purchase the assault rifle in December.
Police reported that a .22-caliber rifle was found in Moreno's bag during the incident, although she did not use it in the shooting.
A 57-year-old civilian bystander was also shot in the leg but has since been released from the hospital, according to authorities.
Police sources earlier told ABC that Moreno's gun said "Free Palestine," however, officials clarified Monday that there was a sticker on the rifle's butt plate that read "Palestine."
Disturbing video footage captured the commencement of a Spanish-language church service abruptly disrupted by a hail of gunfire. Detectives revealed that Moreno may have fired as many as 12 shots into the church before being shot dead.
Moreno reportedly poured an unidentified substance onto the floor and told officers that there was a bomb before succumbing to her injuries. However, a subsequent search of the area by a hazmat team yielded no evidence of explosives.
Lakewood Church, founded by Joel Osteen's late father, attracts a weekly attendance of 45,000, ranking it as the third-largest mega-church in the United States.