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Warning signs mounted before Texas shooter entered church with her son, former mother-in-law says

Feb 14, 2024, 9:41 PM

Walli Carranza discusses the mental health struggles that her former daughter-in-law, Genesse Moren...

Walli Carranza discusses the mental health struggles that her former daughter-in-law, Genesse Moreno, dealt with before she opened fire at a megachurch earlier in the week, Wednesday, Feb. 14, 2024, in Houston. Carranza says she believes that systemic failures as well as lax gun laws ultimately led to Sunday's shooting at the church (AP Photo/Lekan Oyekanmi)
Credit: ASSOCIATED PRESS

(AP Photo/Lekan Oyekanmi)

HOUSTON (AP) — The former mother-in-law of the woman who opened fire at a Houston megachurch tried for years to alert authorities and others, including church staff, about her ex-daughter-in-law’s mental health struggles, she said Wednesday. But Walli Carranza said nothing came of her actions.

Carranza said she believes systemic failures as well as lax gun laws ultimately led to Sunday’s shooting at celebrity pastor Joel Osteen’s Lakewood Church in which Genesse Moreno entered the church with her 7-year-old son and opened fire in a hallway. Two people were wounded in the shooting, including Moreno’s son, who was shot in the head. Moreno was gunned down by security officers she exchanged gunfire with.

“You can’t put responsibility on the mind, when the mind was so very ill. A healthy mother would never bring her child to a situation like this. That’s not mental health. So sometimes we don’t have to find a guilty party or place blame. We can just say there are systems that failed,” Carranza told The Associated Press in an interview.

Carranza said her grandson Samuel remained in critical condition, but that he was doing better.

Various questions about the shooting remained unanswered on Wednesday, including Moreno’s motive and details about how she obtained the AR-style rifle she used.

Carranza said her son Enrique Carranza and Moreno met at the University of Houston and married in September 2015. They divorced in 2022.

Carranza said her son, who is currently incarcerated in Florida, didn’t want to divorce Moreno and only “wanted his wife to get healthy.”

Carranza said Child Protective Services was notified after Moreno was accused by nurses of putting adult medication in her son’s feeding tube after his birth in 2016. Other concerns, including allegations that Moreno left guns unattended in her home, were also forwarded to CPS but no action was taken, Carranza said.

“My great concern for Sam was that he was going to shoot himself, and that’s what we warned against,” Carranza said. She added that in January 2020, when Moreno and her grandson visited her in Colorado, Samuel pulled a handgun from his diaper bag and gave it to her.

Melissa Landford, spokesperson for the state Department of Family and Protective Services, said CPS could not comment on the case for confidentiality reasons.

Carranza also said that in 2020 and 2021, her attorney sent emails to Lakewood Church asking for assistance with intervening in Moreno’s struggles, believing that Moreno’s mother attended the church.

Church spokesman Don Iloff said Wednesday that records show Moreno “sporadically” attended services at Lakewood for a couple years but there were no records of her being at the church after 2022.

Iloff said they were still looking but had not found any records showing Moreno’s mother attended the church. He added that church officials also had not found records of the emails sent by Carranza’s attorney but they were still looking.

Iloff said in situations where someone may reach out for help, what the church can offer them is spiritual and biblical counseling.

“If we had reached out and (Moreno) had accepted counseling, then we definitely would have been more than happy to provide that,” Iloff said.

In a video message on Instagram, Osteen invited people to attend a special service at the church this coming Sunday to celebrate a “time of healing and restoration.”

“We are not people of fear. We are people of faith. God has us in the palm of his hand, and this is not the time to shrink back. This is the time to turn to God, to rally together,” Osteen said.

Texas law generally bans someone convicted of a felony from owning a gun for several years after they are released from prison. Misdemeanors connected to domestic violence will also trigger a ban.

But Moreno’s extensive list of misdemeanors, ranging from forging a $100 bill to shoplifting and assault, did not meet that threshold.

Texas also lacks a so-called “red flag” law, which generally allows law enforcement or family members to ask a judge to order the seizure or surrender of guns from someone who is deemed dangerous, often because of mental health concerns or threats of violence.

Carranza said she met for hours with FBI agents on Tuesday, discussing the reports she filed over the years about Moreno.

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Associated Press writer Jim Vertuno in Austin contributed to this report.

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Follow Juan A. Lozano on X, formerly known as Twitter: twitter.com/juanlozano70

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Warning signs mounted before Texas shooter entered church with her son, former mother-in-law says