The child, previously described as a 5-year-old, remained in critical condition on Monday following an exchange of gunfire between two law enforcement officers and the child’s mother, 36-year-old Genesse Moreno, who was armed with two firearms, the Houston Police Department said at an afternoon press conference.
Moreno, who had a known history of mental illness, entered Lakewood Church with the child shortly before 2 p.m. and “immediately” started firing an AR-15 rifle inside a hallway. A second gun, a .22-caliber rifle, was also in her possession but not fired, said Police Commander Christopher Hassig of the city’s homicide division.
“Multiple shots were exchanged by all three,” said Hassig, who added that it’s not yet clear from their investigation who shot the child. Moreno, who is believed to have acted alone in the attack, was pronounced dead at the scene, he said.
A motive was not immediately known, though police did mention that a sticker was found on the AR-15 rifle that said “Palestine.” The woman also left behind some anti-Semitic writings and had a family dispute with her ex-husband and some of his Jewish family members, Hassig said.
“So we believe that that might possibly be where all of this stems from,” he said.
Police said Moreno used several different aliases in the past, including male ones, though she was identified as female following the shooting.
She is believed to have been placed under an emergency detention order by Houston police in 2016, and she had a mental health history that’s been documented through police and interviews with family, Hassig said.
Despite her mental health issues, she legally purchased one of the firearms that she brought into the church back in December, Hassig said.
Houston Police Chief Troy Finner said they are not currently labeling the attack as a hate crime and urged the public to “stop putting people in boxes.”
“We don’t want to jump ahead,” he told reporters during the press conference. “You have mental illness here, you have a lot going on.”
Finner said the investigation is in its early stages and that video of the incident remains part of it.
“Whatever we have to show, we will show it,” he said of the footage.