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Joel Osteen Lakewood church shooting: Houston police search for motive as new details emerge about shooter



CNN

Investigators are still trying to determine what motivated a 36-year-old mother to open fire with a semi-automatic rifle at a popular Houston megachurch Sunday in an incident that left two people injured, including her 7-year-old son. years, before was killed by law enforcement.

The shooter, identified as Genesse Ivonne Moreno, confronted a security guard Sunday outside the Lakewood church where the well-known televangelist and pastor is located. Joel Osteen preaches shortly before 2 p.m. Investigators believe she may have revealed a weapon to the guard, who was unarmed, and forced her way in, according to Houston Police Chief Troy Finner.

Wearing a trench coat and backpack, she entered the converted sports arena between church services and opened fire in a hallway with an AR platform rifle, Christopher Hassig said, commander of the Houston police homicide division, during a press conference Monday. A federal law enforcement source told CNN she fired about 30 rounds.

Two off-duty officers were at the church: a 28-year-old Houston police officer and a 38-year-old Texas Alcoholic Beverage Commission officer, both with less than five years of service. The two officers attacked the shooter and she was fatally shot, the police chief said.

Moreno’s son, who was shot in the head during the ordeal, is in critical condition in the hospital, Finner said. It is unclear who fired the shot that injured the child and CNN has contacted police for more information.

A 57-year-old man, who was also shot in the leg, has been released from a medical facility, Finner said.

It remains unclear what led to the shooting and what motivated Moreno, who has a long criminal history and was going through a bitter divorce. Investigators say they are trying to determine whether the incident was politically motivated or whether it was committed by a mentally ill person, according to a federal law enforcement source.

Special Agent in Charge Douglas Williams of the FBI’s Houston office told reporters Monday, “We are in the early stages of this case. I totally understand, we want to know the motive, how she got the gun, why she did that,” he said. “We’re not there yet.”

This shooting is just the latest example of gun violence disrupting American life in places once considered safe. This one was in a place of worship. Others have been to schools, grocery stores, shopping malls, hospitals, college campuses and parties at home.

Police say shooter had history of mental health issues and had anti-Semitic writings

Hours after the shooting, authorities searched Moreno’s home in Conroe, about 50 miles north of Lakewood Church, the U.S. Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Enforcement said Monday. explosives.

According to a search warrant obtained by CNN, investigators said the shooter claimed at the scene that he had a bomb but was carrying yellow rope similar to detonating cord and “substances consistent with the manufacture of bombs.” explosive devices.

CNN has contacted the Houston Fire Department for more information.

The shooter used an AR-15 with a “Palestine” sticker in the attack, which she legally purchased in December, police said. She also had a .22 caliber weapon in her bag which was not used, according to a federal police source.

– Source: CNN
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Parishioner Describes Hearing Gunshots Amid Reports of Shooting at Joel Osteen Church

CNN law enforcement analyst John Miller said Monday that authorities have a lot of work to do before any motive becomes clear.

“That’s why federal authorities were executing search warrants,” he said, noting that they were “searching computers, written materials, USB drives, social media, online.” They really wonder about the identity of this person.

Information from Moreno’s social media accounts and local authorities paints a picture of a single mother with a history of mental health issues and going through ups and downs trying to turn her life around and start a business.

At Monday’s news conference, Hassig said the shooter used multiple aliases, including both male and female names. Moreno was the subject of an emotional detention order in 2016 and she has a mental health history documented by Houston police, Hassig said.

Texas Department of Public Safety records show Moreno made a series of arrests for minor offenses over the past two decades, including illegal possession of a weapon. But in her 30s, she described herself on social media as the founder of a real estate and financial services company. Through her own account on social media pages, she is involved in the sale of everything from new condos to shopping centers.

A booking photo of Genesse Ivonne Moreno

A social media post in March 2020 shows a screenshot of a form letter from the Lakewood church thanking Moreno for his donation. The police chief was asked Monday if the shooter had a connection to the church and said the matter was under investigation.

A CNN review showed the story of a A bitter custody battle between Moreno and representatives of her ex-partner’s family played out on her social media accounts. In 2022, when her divorce proceedings were moved to county court, according to an attorney who represented her, Moreno was also arrested on a weapons charge, a misdemeanor, which was cleared with two days of time in the jail of Fort Bend County.

According to police, there was some sort of domestic dispute between the shooter and her ex-husband and her ex-husband’s family, some of whom are Jewish.

“Maybe that’s where all this comes from,” Hassig added. He said police also found anti-Semitic writings linked to the shooter.

Attorney William Capasso said he represented Moreno in 2021-2022 and told CNN that Genesse Ivone Moreno’s name at the time was Jeffrey Moreno Carranza.

Capasso said he later retired as an attorney and she represented herself in divorce proceedings.

The shooter’s complicated history adds uncertainty over establishing motive and has created a ‘conundrum’ for authorities who must determine whether the shooting was motivated by hatred or a health crisis mental, Miller said.

Woman says she fled shooting and hid in room with other people

With a background in television production, Osteen took over his father’s church in 1999 and built a huge following. Its services draw 45,000 worshipers to the Houston-area church each week, in addition to people across the country who listen to sermons online and on television, according to its website.

“We are devastated,” Osteen said Sunday. “We’ve been here 65 years and someone shoots up your church…”

First responders and law enforcement personnel surround the area after a shooting Sunday at television evangelist Joel Osteen's Lakewood church in Houston.

A woman who was inside the church at the time of the shooting told CNN affiliate KHOU that Osteen was greeting people after the service ended and she was among the last to meet him.

Shortly after, she told the news channel, she heard repeated bangs, almost like “mechanical sounds.”

“It almost looked like folding tables were being taken apart and thrown on the ground,” she said. “But they were irregular.”

Then the woman said she heard another series of bangs and saw people screaming and running. She ran into a room and sneaked inside with other people, including a child. The group put two large wooden slats on the door to prevent it from opening, then they began to pray.

“We were grateful,” she said. “We could have been a victim. We could have been shot.

CNN’s Raja Razek, Andy Rose, Ashley Killough, Jamiel Lynch, Lauren Mascarenhas and Zoe Sottile contributed to this report.

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