". . . and having done all . . . stand firm." Eph. 6:13


Lakewood Church Shooter Was Mentally Ill, Eligible for Deportation, Acquaintances Say

February 15, 2024

Disturbing new details of the woman who opened fire inside Joel Osteen’s Texas megachurch have emerged, painting a different picture than many in the legacy media have reported.

According to those closest to her, the Lakewood Church shooter was a mentally ill former Muslim who is sometimes identified in official records by a man’s name, abused her seven-year-old son for years to collect welfare payments, and could have been deported due to her immigration status.

The Undisputed Facts

Thus far, here are the facts that no one disputes: On Sunday afternoon shortly before 2 p.m. local time, 36-year-old Genesse Ivonne Moreno (whose first name is pronounced “Henessay,” according to local media) entered Joel Osteen’s Lakewood Church in Houston. She wore a trench coat, a backpack, and carried an AR-15 rifle emblazoned with the word “Palestine,” as well as a .22 caliber rifle that she did not use in the church attack. Although Moreno lived more than 40 miles north of Houston (in Conroe, Texas), she intended to open fire inside the church’s Spanish language service, which her family once attended. Upon arrival, Moreno exchanged fire with the on-duty guard, then opened fire immediately, wounding a 57-year-old parishioner, who has since been treated and released. Two off-duty law enforcement officers — a Houston police officer and an agent with the Texas Alcoholic Beverage Commission — shot and killed Moreno before she reached the megachurch’s sanctuary which seats 16,800. The shooter brought her young son, Samuel Moreno-Carranza, to the crime scene. He was shot in the head during the exchange, although officials have not yet established by whom. As of this writing, the child remains hospitalized in critical condition. Officials pronounced the would-be mass shooter dead on the scene within minutes of entering the church.

“Being from Texas, we understand what’s at stake here: The only thing that stops a bad person with a gun is a good person with a gun,” said Rep. Randy Weber (R-Texas) on Wednesday’s episode of “Washington Watch with Tony Perkins.”

Yet officials had interacted with the shooter in multiple capacities, years before the attempted mass shooting. Genesse Moreno “has a criminal background dating back to 2005,” noted Weber. The charges included forgery of a $100 bill, assaulting a detention officer, marijuana possession, and illegally carrying a weapon in 2022. In 2016, Houston police officers placed the woman under involuntary emergency detention, stating she posed a “substantial risk of harm” to herself or others due to her “mental illness.” Officials confirmed she suffered from schizophrenia. She also identified herself on occasion by a male name.

After an investigation, the Conroe Police Department stated it followed the book during every investigation of Moreno. Yet a neighbor told local media they had given police more than enough actionable leads to prevent Sunday’s tragic church shooting.

“Nobody should have died,” the neighbor told local media.

Few in the legacy media have reported the neighbor’s response, nor have they included many details that paint the shooter in a new light — including her history as a left-wing ideologue, ex-Muslim, reported child abuser, and her status as a deportable alien.

Underreported Aspects: An Anti-Semitic, Left-Wing, Ex-Muslim?

“When my son met [Moreno], she was a practicing Muslim,” according to the shooter’s former mother-in-law, Walli Carranza, who identifies publicly as a rabbi. Although Moreno wore traditional Muslim garb, the shooter left her faith at her Jewish husband’s urging and “quickly grabbed on to his Judaism.” But shortly before the church shooting, Carranza said Moreno “raged against Israel and Jews in a pro-Palestinian rant.”

Police say they uncovered numerous “anti-Semitic writings” among Moreno’s belongings. Local TV station KHOU-11 says it found numerous posts targeting Jewish people on Moreno’s now-shuttered account on X, formerly known as Twitter. Although Moreno operated the account for only five days — from November 28 through December 2, 2022 — “more than 50 posts appeared to be written by Moreno,” according to KHOU. “About half of them featured writing that was blatantly hostile toward Jewish people.” 

“A familial dispute that has taken place between her ex-husband and ex-husband’s family, and some of those individuals are Jewish,” said Chris Hassig, commander of Houston Police Department’s homicide division. “We believe that might be where all of this stems from.”

Screenshots from her now-deleted Instagram account show that Moreno supported Democratic Socialist Senator Bernie Sanders (I-Vermont) for president. She reportedly expressed anti-police sentiments on Facebook, as well.

The Shooter Used a Man’s Name and Called Herself ‘Transgender’

Although Moreno is a woman, she frequently identified herself by variations of the male name Jeffrey, including Jeffrey Escalante, Jeffery Genesse Escalante, and Jeffery G. Escalante-Moreno. Houston police say they conducted a thorough investigation into Moreno’s gender identity and found she always identified as a female.

Numerous legacy media outlets have branded the notion that the Lakewood Church shooter identified as transgender “misinformation”:

  • The Associated Press ran a “fact check” by Melissa Goldin titled, “The Texas megachurch shooter has not been identified as transgender, despite claims online.”
  • The British news outlet The Independent charged, “Ted Cruz and Don [Trump] Jr boost debunked claim Lakewood Church shooter was a transgender woman.”
  • The left-wing news outlet Vice, which filed for bankruptcy last May, declared, “The Far Right Is Spreading Misinformation Claiming the Lakewood Church Shooter Was Trans.”

But Genesse Moreno’s neighbor says the church shooter frequently identified as “transgender,” or exploited other allegedly oppressed identities favored by critical race theory and intersectionality. That neighbor, identified as Jill, said, “At first it was always like, ‘Oh, it’s because I’m transgender.’ Then it was, ‘Because we’re Mexican.’ Then it was, ‘Because we’re black.’ And then every time, depending on what her narrative was for that day, she’d change the reason you were picking on her.”

As Moreno’s neighbor for “four years, I’ve been through hell,” Jill told the media. Moreno engaged in an escalating series of threatening behavior, displaying swastikas and gang signs, blaring threatening rap lyrics, making her WiFi name “Kill Jill,” and honking her car horn for hours at a time. Yet Jill says police told her, “Until she hurts you, there’s nothing we can do.”

Moreno Allegedly Abused Her Son, ‘Would Likely Have Been Deported’

Officials acknowledge Moreno had outbursts of uncontrolled schizophrenia. Her mother-in-law says Moreno also reportedly suffered from Munchausen syndrome by proxy, a condition in which the parent seeks attention through her child. The condition — also known as factitious disorder imposed on another (FDIA), or fabricated or induced illness (FII) — is frequently reported among those involved in the transgender movement.

Moreno reportedly abused her child, who was born prematurely due to Moreno’s drug abuse, according to her mother-in-law. “A feeding tube was placed when he choked one time, and then she was supposed to get it taken out two weeks later,” Walli Carranza said. “It was left in for years,” allegedly so Moreno could collect disability payments from Social Security.

Carranza said Moreno refused to take the child to therapy sessions, leaving the child unable to speak; the seven-year-old boy had only recently become verbal, according to his grandmother. Carranza said, although Child Protective Services had investigated Moreno, her grandson repeatedly brandished weapons that Moreno stashed in unsecured locations, including his diaper bag.

Despite Moreno’s blighted history, she reportedly had custody of her son, because her ex-husband, Enrique Carranza III, committed a sexual offense in Colorado in 2007 and did not register as a sex offender upon moving to Houston nine years later. The couple divorced in 2022. The man is now in a Florida jail for failing to register as a sex offender.

In documents filed by Walli Carranza in her attempt to gain custody of the child, the Carranzas claim Moreno filed a false birth certificate for Sam. But the husband had been “reticent to file the criminal charges against his wife; now his former wife because, as she is not a U.S. citizen.” Since “she already has had criminal convictions, she would likely be deported if convicted of the 3rd degree felony that stems from filing a fraudulent birth certificate.”

The Obama-Biden administration’s Department of Homeland Security apparently placed an immigration detainer against Moreno in 2010, but promptly lifted the order.

The documents do not elaborate whether Genesse Moreno entered the United States illegally from her native El Salvador, or whether she obtained asylum from the nation’s frequently-abused system. Houston, a Democratic stronghold in Republican Texas, identified itself as a sanctuary city.

Harris County Judge Lina Hidalgo wanted the shooting investigated as a “hate crime” — not because it targeted Christians — but because “the shooting took place at an all-Spanish service.”

The picture emerging of the Lakewood Church shooting turns the Left’s preferred narrative of oppressor and oppressed on its head, critics say. “Here is a potential intersectionality that the Left will not want to acknowledge,” said Family Research Council President Tony Perkins, in a statement to The Washington Stand. “The Lakewood Church shooting, in one tragic event, may be a harbinger of things to come under the Left’s transgender, immigration, and anti-biblical policies.”

Moreno’s story has many elements in common with another recent mass shooting inside a church-run facility.

The Rise of Mentally Ill, Trans-Identifying, Intersectional Church Shooters?

Last March 27, a shooter entered Nashville’s Covenant School and killed six people, three nine-year-old students and three employees. Police shot and killed the perpetrator, 28-year-old former student Audrey Elizabeth Hale, who sometimes identified as a male named Aiden. Hale, who also struggled with mental illness, told friends she left behind an abundance of writings, including a still-unreleased manifesto explaining her motives in detail. But Hale wanted to kill the students due to their “white privilege,” according to verified pages of Hale’s diary posted on social media by talk show host Steven Crowder. Despite her left-wing politics and transgender identity, police have uniformly referred to Hale as a woman, much like Moreno.

Mass shootings used to be uniformly male, but “something’s changed, and it’s been in conjunction with the rise of transgenderism,” Dr. Jennifer Bauwens, director of the Center for Family Studies at Family Research Council, told Perkins on Tuesday. “A good researcher would say, ‘What is going on here? Why is it that these women are also connected in some way to the transgender ideology?’”

Studies show people who identify as transgender “have a lot of adverse childhood events, trauma, anger, and also a susceptibility to suicidal ideation or committing suicide,” Bauwens said. Even “if you take someone who has great mental health and then you pump them with higher levels of male or female hormones, how can you expect a good outcome?” The problem lies with the fact that members of the “psychological profession are so quick to throw drugs at every problem,” and Americans as a whole have “the desire to fix something with a pill, to have a quick fix, rather than to actually deal with those underlying issues.”

But left-wing ideology also feeds anti-Christian hate crimes, said Bauwens. Much of the problem comes from the “minority stress theory, which basically says, ‘If you were a minority, then you are an oppressed person,’” Bauwens told Perkins. “They’re already feeling [like] a victim because maybe they’ve been through trauma. So then you have this framework that says, ‘You are a victim. And there are these other people, Christians, others who believe that sex is binary and, therefore, they are keeping this vital” transgender hormonal and surgical “treatment from you.’”

“The circumstances in our society have set up the belief system that Christians are the problem,” said Bauwens.

An expert on church assaults said Moreno’s attempted mass-casualty event seems terrifyingly commonplace. “We live in an increasingly polarized culture, and that has the risk of spilling over into violence. We see this happening even in churches,” FRC’s Arielle Del Turco, who has repeatedly documented attacks against U.S. churches, told TWS. “Family Research Council has continued to monitor acts of hostility against churches, and our upcoming report will detail how these acts doubled in 2023, compared to the previous year. These acts include, vandalism, arson and arson attempts, bomb threats, and other acts. The significant rise in acts of hostility is cause for concern.”

Given Moreno’s history, shocked citizens are asking how the shooting took place — but the church’s leadership has no doubt why it failed.

‘Thank God and His Angels for Watching Over Us’

The pastor of the church publicly praised God’s providence for preventing the shooter’s plans from blossoming into a full-scale disaster. “Thank God and His angels for watching over us,” said Joel Osteen in a video posted online Wednesday afternoon. Although the church canceled Ash Wednesday services, the pastor vowed to reopen the sanctuary with a unity service on Sunday morning. Despite the raging of worldly “forces that would like us to shrink back and live in fear,” Osteen called on Christians to act boldly.

“We are not people of fear,” said Osteen. “We are people of faith.”

Ben Johnson is senior reporter and editor at The Washington Stand.