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For Houston megachurch shooter, obtaining guns wasn’t an issue

By 37ci3 Feb16,2024


CONROE, Texas – Amid a history of documented criminal activity and mental health struggles, a woman Shots fired at Joel Osteen’s megachurch in Houston together with his son, it turned out that he had no difficulty in one area: buying a gun.

Genesse Moreno used one in Sunday’s attack AR-15 style rifle Officials said it was purchased legally in December. He was also armed with a .22 caliber rifle. But court documents show Moreno, 36, had at least four other firearms seized over the past four years.

According to Moreno’s former mother-in-law, two guns were seized in separate incidents in Colorado and Texas, and two more were seized and destroyed after he was arrested outside Houston in 2022. His gun possession was also detailed by Houston’s neighbors in the Conroe suburb, who claimed he had stalked and threatened them over the years.

How Moreno, 36, obtained the rifles he was carrying Sunday and why the popular pastor targeted the Lakewood church are still under investigation. He was killed in a shootout with two off-duty law enforcement officers, while his 7-year-old son and a man were wounded, Houston police said.

Lakewood Church Pastor Joel Osteen attends a news conference on February 11, 2024 at Lakewood Church.
Lakewood Church Pastor Joel Osteen at a news conference at Lakewood Church in Houston on Sunday.Kirk Sides/Houston Chronicle via Getty Images

Investigators said the man was released from the hospital with a leg injury.

Moreno’s former mother-in-law, Wally Carranza, said on Facebook on Thursday said that his grandson, who was in serious condition after being shot in the head, “has to fight for his life again”. The boy, who was born nearly 24 weeks premature, underwent two surgeries in less than 24 hours and his brain activity remains unclear. he said.

“What is the excuse for those who know and do nothing,” Carranza wrote of Moreno’s ability to obtain guns, “and what is the excuse for lawmakers who refuse to allow red flag laws but allow anyone to purchase an assault weapon?”

The word “Palestine” is written Authorities said the assault-style rifle used by Moreno. He also made several statements during the incident that took place between services at the sprawling church complex; officials declined to describe what he said.

Documented history of mental illness

Moreno was married to her son’s father, Enrique Carranza, from 2015 to 2022. Their son was born in 2016 and the couple had a contentious divorce.

The last divorce decision of the couple was made in May 2022. In court documents, Enrique Carranza described Moreno as a “diagnosed schizophrenic” and violent, and said his sons suffered “physical and developmental delays” under his care.

“I’m afraid he has my address. He has guns and my son brags about them when he’s in the car,” he said, adding that “because my wife is schizophrenic, she doesn’t have the ability to distinguish reality from fiction.”

Violence is relatively rare among people with serious mental illnesses such as schizophrenia, and although some studies suggest there may be a link, researchers note that factors such as substance abuse, childhood trauma and environment can be part of a person’s case. According to the American Psychological Association.

Wally Carranza explained Moreno’s deteriorating mental health in his 2022 divorce and custody filings. He said Moreno had shown “correct behavior” early in the marriage and had received psychiatric help.

The authorities confiscated weapons from Moreno several times.

Wally Carranza said he was also concerned about Moreno’s firearms. She said that in 2020, while the couple was staying at their home in Colorado Springs, Colorado, she asked her 3-year-old granddaughter to bring her diaper bag, and she “reached in and got an unlocked and loaded handgun.” according to his testimony.

Wally Carranza, a rabbi, later took the gun to the Colorado Springs Police Department, where he served as a chaplain, and after a psychiatric evaluation in 2016, he asked them to “confiscate” Moreno’s gun because he was concerned he had it.

But this was not the only weapon in Moreno’s hands. According to Wally Carranza, his son and Moreno were driving from Colorado to Texas on an unspecified date when Moreno “pulled another gun from the seat of his car and pointed it at his head while Enrique was driving” with his son sleeping in the back. the seat

After seeing Enrique Carranza driving slowly, Sheriff’s Deputy pulled the car over and Deputy Carranza called his mother. Wally Carranza testified that the deputy confiscated Moreno’s gun.

According to Wally Carranza, Moreno “told that officer that it was the only gun in his car, but that was a lie.”

Neither Carranza nor Moreno’s family responded to requests for comment.

Moreno acquired at least two more guns in the following years.

In April 2022, he was arrested on a gun charge in Fort Bend County, Texas, where authorities said he had a handgun in his car and drug paraphernalia, which makes it illegal to possess a firearm. . Six months later, he pleaded guilty to the charge, which was a misdemeanor.

Fort Bend County prosecutors said two of Moreno’s weapons, a Smith & Wesson 9mm handgun and an AR-15 rifle, were confiscated and destroyed as a result of the case.

Moreno, who used numerous aliases over the years, was convicted in nearly a half-dozen cases by 2005, including forgery and theft.

Texas is not among the 21 states with red flag laws that generally allow law enforcement officers to seize firearms from people believed to be an imminent danger to themselves or others.

Federal law requires people to fill out a form indicating whether they have certain criminal convictions when they buy from federally licensed dealers, but it’s unclear whether Moreno bought his guns through a retail outlet or a private seller. Ask about his criminal history.

In Texas, people with felony convictions can own guns with limited exceptions, such as certain cases of domestic violence. Convicted felons can also own restricted firearms, but must wait five years after completing their sentences and must keep the firearms in their homes.

Scott Sweetow, a retired federal Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives official, said states like Texas without red flag laws have a “vulnerability” created by a person in crisis with easy access to guns.

“Unless there is an active threat that someone is going somewhere or making death threats and has a gun and is going to act now, that’s the kind of situation we’re dealing with when there’s no such thing. see,” Sweetow said of shootings involving people with known mental health issues. “Unfortunately, over and over again.”

Efforts to harden Texas gun laws are violated After a spate of deadly school shootings in recent years in the Republican-controlled Legislature Santa Fe near Galveston in 2018 and Uvalde in 2022.

Regardless, Sweetow said, law enforcement doesn’t have the authority to “just go to someone’s house and ask them if they have a gun” and then confiscate a gun based on the “mere suspicion” that a person may have mental health issues.

Threatening behavior

Some of Moreno’s neighbors in Conroe said they saw “warning signs” and tried to reach out to local law enforcement. exciting interaction with himsaid that he targeted, harassed and threatened them, showed them firearms and intimidated them from being outside their homes.

Police records show at least 20 calls to Moreno’s home from 2019 to 2023, some involving allegations of harassment and threatening behavior. Some of the incidents include accusations made by neighbors against Moreno, as well as calls from Moreno about “suspicious behavior” in their neighborhood.

In June, a neighbor’s daughter filed a report alleging that Moreno was stalking her mother and that she was “scared her mother was going to die.”

Conroe police said Tuesday they have reviewed calls involving Moreno in recent years and believe officers acted appropriately. Police records show that officers routinely find that no actual crimes have occurred despite complaints from neighbors.

“Nothing given to officers shall authorize arrest or require emergency mental health detention; nor could any of the information indicate that the suspect would commit such a heinous crime,” the police department said in a statement.

Outside his home Wednesday, Janet Fields, a neighbor, acknowledged that guns are common: She carries a gun, another neighbor has a “no assault” sign with an assault rifle pictured, and Moreno would display pictures of guns in her windows.

But Fields said something about Moreno’s behavior prompted her and her husband to pray for him. Although he said Moreno shouldn’t have had a gun, he wondered what more could be done after his neighbors tried to talk him out of fear and the police decided to take no action.

“It’s hard to catch somebody early,” Fields said. “If they’re derailing, you don’t want to push them off the rails.”

Suzanne Gamboa Conroe and Eric Ortiz reported from New York.



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