Sunday, February 25

Texas neighbors said they tried to sound the alarm about Houston church shooter for months


CONROE, Texas — Years before a shooter opened fire at Joel Osteen’s Lakewood Church in Houston, residents in the small neighborhood said they had run-ins with the suspect, who frightened them.

Six women who live in the neighborhood in Conroe, a north Houston suburb, said the woman, Genesse Ivonne Moreno, targeted them, harassed them, threatened them, displayed firearms and made them fear being outside their homes.

Late Monday afternoon, the women held a news conference in the driveway of a home to describe what they said they have been enduring and to criticize what they said was officials’ failure to respond to their reports about Moreno.

“No one should have died. No one should have been hurt. This should have been handled years ago, and here we are again,” said Jill, the president of the neighborhood association, who would not give her last name for fear of retaliation.

Authorities said Moreno opened fire Sunday afternoon between services in the Lakewood megachurch in Houston. Her 7-year-old son was with her at the time, authorities said.

Houston Police Chief Troy Finner said Monday that the young boy was wounded and “fighting for his life.”

A 57-year-old man who also was struck has been released from the hospital.

Two off-duty law enforcement officers who were at the church returned fire, killing Moreno.

No one answered at the address where authorities say Moreno lived, nor did anyone respond to a business card left at the door. Late Monday afternoon, someone at the home taped a dated sign to the front door that said: “I do not want to speak to anyone. Please leave my property. Thank you.”

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A note hangs Monday on the front door of the home where the suspect in the Lakewood Church shooting lived.Suzanne Gamboa / NBC News

In the neighborhood, lawns are orderly with a few plants and planters on them, except for the one at Moreno’s home. It has small concrete statues of a rabbit, a fairy and an angel. Metal birds and butterflies on rods are planted around a tree. Wind chimes hang from the eaves. Doormats that say “Welcome” lead to the small portico.

A few banners with Christian messages hang at homes in the neighborhood, but several homes have cameras, including Moreno’s. A small “No Trespassing” sign with the image of an assault rifle is posted on the fence of one home.

The women who spoke said things got so bad in the neighborhood that five of them spent a day about five months ago talking to local elected officials, police, the sheriff’s office and the city’s legal department. They wrote letters to the neighborhood’s property management company and met with its lawyer, and they called media, said Linda Giutta, who lives in the neighborhood.

They said a cease-and-desist order was issued after that meeting.

“We cannot do anything more than what we did. We tried to stop this,” Giutta said. “We tried to help her. We tried to help us. We tried to help the public. Something needs to get done.”

One of the women, Heather, who gave only her first name out of fear of retaliation, said she made a complaint against Moreno, alleging she threatened her with a handgun on July 4, 2022.

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Heather said Moreno had screamed expletives at her when she was watering her lawn early that morning. Heather said that she walked to Moreno’s home and that the woman pointed a handgun at her from behind the trunk of her car. She said Conroe police documented the incident as a threat.

“We’re being told ‘see something, say something.’ Well, we’re seeing stuff, we are saying stuff … and Conroe PD is not helping us,” Heather said. “I don’t want to bash them, but help us. Please.”

Neither the police department nor Conroe’s five council members immediately responded to requests for comment.

Authorities have not identified a motive in Sunday’s shooting, but they said a dispute between Moreno and her ex-husband’s family, some of whom are Jewish, might be linked to the shooting. 

Two law enforcement officials told NBC News earlier that Moreno used an assault rifle with the word “Palestine” written on it. 

Moreno made several statements during the shooting, officials said, but they declined to describe them.

Moreno had a documented mental health history and was placed under an emergency detention order by Houston police in 2016. Law enforcement records show she was arrested several times since 2005. She pleaded guilty to illegally carrying a weapon and pleaded to a lesser charge after authorities accused her of assaulting a public official.

Another resident, Judy Keith, said she first met Moreno in a park at the end of their street. She said she stopped walking every morning and night in the neighborhood because Moreno tried twice to hit her while she was out walking.

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“I’m afraid to come down here. I used to walk my granddaughter down here to the park and I had to stop doing that,” Keith said. 


www.nbcnews.com

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