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Neighbors of Lakewood Church shooter detail years of ‘hell,’ police inaction: ‘Only a matter of time’

neighbors-of-lakewood-church-shooter-detail-years-of-‘hell,’-police-inaction:-‘only-a-matter-of-time’
Neighbors of Lakewood Church shooter detail years of ‘hell,’ police inaction: ‘Only a matter of time’

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The neighbors of the shooter who opened fire at Joel Osteen’s Lakewood Church before being fatally shot by police detailed years of harassment and threats their small, two-street community faced from her, saying law enforcement and elected officials failed to adequately respond to their near-constant outcry. 

Five women who lived near Genesse Ivonne Moreno in Conroe, Texas, a city more than 50 miles north of the Houston megachurch, described to FOX 26 Houston how Moreno tormented the usually close-knit neighborhood over the past four years. 

A next-door neighbor, Jill, said Moreno repeatedly made false police reports that she and others were stalking Moreno and the 7-year-old boy said to be Moreno’s son.

Moreno – who was originally from El Salvador, had a lengthy criminal record and previously used the name Jeffrey Escalante Moreno – brought the 7-year-old into the megachurch before opening fire, and the boy remains hospitalized in critical condition. 

“Four years I’ve been through hell. I have reported this, reported this, reported this, and it’s gone on deaf ears,” Jill told the outlet. “I’ve had psychological officers up here. Since they won’t answer their door, they won’t do anything: ‘Until she hurts you, there’s nothing we can do.’ So, everybody keeps saying on all these big news stations, ‘If you see something, say something.’ That’s bulls—. Because I’ve been through it. I’ve talked to everybody. I’ve probably called every one of your news stations trying to get someone to take this on.”

“No one would do anything. Nobody would call me back. And yet everyone’s still on these stations saying, ‘See something, say something.’ Nobody should have died. Nobody should have been hurt. This should have been handled years ago. And here we are again,” Jill added.

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“I knew it was only a matter of time before she did something,” said another neighbor, Linda Giutta. “We did something, we said something.”

Escalante Moreno Mugshots

Genesse Ivonne Moreno, who Houston police said opened fire at the Lakewood Church, used several male and female aliases, including Jeffrey Escalante Moreno. Moreno had six pervious arrests dating back to 2005. (Texas Department of Public Safety/Kirk Sides/Houston Chronicle via AP)

“We cannot do anything more than what we did. We tried to stop this. We tried to help her, we tried to help us, and we tried to help the public. Something needs to get done. I don’t know what needs to get done, but it needs to get done. This was a big church. By the grace of God, Jesus alone, the only person that died was the one who brought the weapon in.”

Several neighbors remembered the same trench coat authorities said Moreno wore in Lakewood Church before opening fire. 

They said they frequently spotted Moreno wearing a trench coat while carrying gun cases and a long rifle in and out of the house. 

Jill recalled that the day of the shooting she saw Moreno pull a sedan into the driveway and cover the vehicle with a blue tarp so that cameras could not pick up what Moreno placed inside.

“It looked really odd, and I thought it was weird, but I thought she’s weird anyway, so you never know what this girl is up to, so I just watched my back and just left it at that,” Jill said.

Joel Olsteen looks on after megachurch shooting

From left, Lakewood Church pastor Joel Osteen, Police Chief Troy Finner, Fire Department Chief Samuel Pena and Mayor John Whitmire participate in a press conference during an active shooter event at Lakewood Church on Feb. 11, 2024. (Kirk Sides/Houston Chronicle via Getty Images)

“Her way of intimidation was to bring the gun cases in and out, crossbows, you know she’d come out and she’d have her gun cases out there, and she’d do a ‘Hail Hitler’ sign or flip you off or b—-. You know, it was something every day,” Jill said. “There’s just so many things, and it just seemed to keep escalating. And then when she started targeting other women in the neighborhood, that’s when we all really started getting concerned because we didn’t know how far it was going to go. I wasn’t the only one being targeted.” 

Authorities said antisemitic writings were found during a search of Moreno’s home. They also indicated that Moreno’s former in-laws are Jewish and that the rifle used in the megachurch attack had a “Palestine” sticker on it. 

In the wake of the shooting, the child’s grandmother released a statement that said in part, “Although my former daughter-in-law raged against Israel and Jews in a pro-Palestinian rant yesterday this has nothing to do with Judaism or Islam. Nothing! But this is what happens when reckless and irresponsible reporting lets people with severe mental illness have an excuse for violence,” she said.

The statement also charged that “[t]he fault lies in child protective services of Montgomery County and Harris County that refused to remove custody from a woman with known mental illness that was not being treated and with the state of Texas for not having strong red flag laws that would have prevented her from owning or possessing a gun.”

LAKEWOOD CHURCH SHOOTER IDENTIFIED AS GENESSE IVONNE MORENO; ‘PALESTINE’ WRITTEN ON GUN

Another neighbor described walking with her grandchildren to the park where Moreno would speed by, sometimes swerve toward them and laugh after nearly striking them.

A neighbor, Heather, said Moreno pulled a gun on her on July 4, 2022, after apparently taking issue with her watering her own lawn after dark. 

Another longtime resident, Farrah, said Moreno began recording her when she went to her mailbox or was outside playing with her granddaughter. She said Moreno began driving past her home after learning she worked as a teaching aide in Moreno’s child’s classroom. The woman also said Moreno filed a false police report that she was stalking Moreno’s son. 

“She called the school saying I was stalking her house when I’ve lived here since 2014,” Farrah said.

“I mean, he’s a good kid,” she said of the boy. “He was pretty good. He was nonverbal, so he didn’t really talk a whole bunch. Kids get upset when they can’t express their emotions, so they’re going to have good days, have bad days. But other than that, he was OK.” She said Moreno pulled the boy out of school in October. 

From the view of her bedroom window, Jill said she could see swastikas and gang signs Moreno had put on display. 

Moreno also put baby monitors on their shared fence, Jill said. The next-door neighbor said Moreno also made her Wi-Fi address “Kill Jill,” honked her horn for hours on end when she was outside trying to garden and blasted rap music with threatening lyrics. 

Lakewood Church shooting scene

Houston police officers watch over displaced churchgoers outside Lakewood Church on Sunday following the shooting. (Karen Warren/Houston Chronicle via AP)

“One of the songs had the lyrics ‘somebody’s going to get f—ed up tonight,’ Jill said. “She’d back it up and replay it for hours on end.”

“This was a weekly occurrence. She was after me,” Jill said. “At first it was always like, ‘Oh, it’s because I’m transgender.’ Then it was ‘because we’re Mexican.’ Then it was because ‘we’re Black.’ And then every time, depending on what her narrative was for that day, she’d change the reason you were picking on her. You know?” (Investigators at a Monday news conference identified Moreno as a woman and the biological mother of the 7-year-old child.)

Jill said Moreno filed a false report with the post office that mail was not being delivered because Moreno was transgender. However, in fact, according to Jill, Moreno had a vehicle parked blocking the mailbox. The mail carrier, the same man who had been delivering Jill’s mail for about five to six years, has a transgender son and came to Moreno’s door to clear the air after that report.

However, according to Jill, Moreno went off on him. The mail carrier afterward “came to my house and said, ‘Jill, this woman next door is after you.’ He quit the next day,” the woman said.

LAKEWOOD CHURCH SHOOTING: WOMAN WITH CHILD IN TOW OPENS FIRE INSIDE JOEL OSTEEN’S TEXAS MEGACHURCH

“My daughter even called Conroe PD and raised Cain with them and said, ‘Aren’t you guys going to do anything? Are you going to wait until I get the phone call that my mom is dead?'” Jill told FOX 26. “It’s gotten very scary.”

Two Thanksgivings ago, Jill said, her grandchildren were visiting from Minnesota and did not want to play in the backyard because Moreno had an aggressive dog that rocked even their heavily plated fence, so they opted to do crafts on the driveway. That’s when Jill said Moreno took out a rifle to intimidate the children.

“She wanted to scare my grandkids, so she went out and got the long rifle – OK, they’re from Minnesota, they shoot, they know what’s going on. Well, she went to the backyard, opened a blind that had never been opened before in four years, and was putting the rifle out of it, like she was going to gun down on somebody,” Jill said.

The neighborhood situation grew so bad, Giutta said, that she and a group of women once took a day off work and went to the courthouse.

“There’s five of us, five families that are going through this. We decided we have to do something about it,” she said. “We talked to commissioners, we talked to elected officials, we waited. Some of the ladies talked to police. We waited for a police officer to call his headquarters, and he got somebody over from his headquarters that was talking about mental health. He stayed with us for a while. From there, he suggested we go to legal. From there, we went to the legal department. We got some information from them. We went into their conference room.”

They also went to the property association and spoke with the manager and his attorney and sent letters, yet no significant action was taken, the women said.

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Though law enforcement has not disclosed a motive, police described Moreno as a “lone wolf” who was not associated with any groups.

Court documents show that Moreno’s former mother-in-law said she sought advice from pastoral staff at Lakewood during a bitter child custody battle in 2022.

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