HOUSTON (Nexstar) — Before Genesse Moreno opened fire in Houston’s Lakewood Church, armed with an AR-15 with her 7-year-old son at her side, she was no stranger to law enforcement. Federal, state, and local investigators on Monday detailed a pattern of arrests, mental health issues and anti-Semitic writings that may have catalyzed Sunday’s attempted massacre.
Moreno was arrested at least six times between 2005 and 2022, according to records obtained from the Texas Department of Public Safety. Charges include unlawful carrying of a weapon, assault of a public servant, assault causing bodily injury, forgery, theft and marijuana possession.
Further, investigators said they have a documented history of her mental health issues gathered through interviews with family members. Officials did not specify what kind of mental health issues Moreno had expressed.
“We need to continue to be aware of mental health issues in our community. There are indications that mental health played a role in an early investigation,” Houston Mayor John Whitmire said.
Investigators said Moreno was placed under an emergency detention order in 2016. In Texas, an emergency detention order allows a court to detain a person with a mental illness who “poses a substantial risk of serious harm to themselves or to others.”
During the first 24 hours of the investigation, officials also uncovered “anti-Semitic writings” and said her AR-15 was decorated with a sticker that read “Palestine.”
“There was a familial dispute that had taken place between her ex-husband and her ex-husband’s family. And some of those individuals are Jewish, so we believe that might possibly be where all of this stems from,” Commander Christopher Hassig with the Houston Police Department’s Homicide Division said.
Investigators were wary to imply Moreno’s motive was political or religious, stopping short of characterizing her attack as a hate crime at this stage of the investigation.
At least one of Moreno’s neighbors said she had voiced concerns about her conduct for years, according to reporting from NBC News. The neighbor said she filed a restraining order against Moreno in November.
“I’ve been through hell. I have reported this, reported this, reported this, and it has gone on deaf ears. Nobody should have died. Nobody should have been hurt. This should have been handled years ago,” the neighbor, who did not want to be identified, told NBC.
Houston Police Chief Troy Finner acknowledged she had a “history,” but disagreed with the characterization that she was “on their radar.”
“She did have a history, if you want to say that, but there are millions on top of millions of people who have a history,” Chief Finner told Nexstar.
Despite the known mental health issues deemed to pose a danger to others, and a prior charge for unlawful carrying of a weapon, Moreno was able to legally purchase the AR-15 used in the attack in December 2023, according to police.
Police encouraged the public to be vigilant and speak up if they know of people who may pose a future threat.
“We all need to continue to work together — neighbors, family members, getting that information up to us in a timely manner where we can be proactive and prevent it,” Chief Finner said.
Investigators urged anyone with information on Genesse Moreno to contact the Houston Homicide Department at 713-308-3600 or Crime Stoppers at 713-222-TIPS.
“We’re in the infancy stages of this,” FBI Special Agent Doug Williams said. “We want to know the motive, how she got the weapon, why she did this. We’re not there yet.”