13 Investigates if red flag laws could have prevented Lakewood shooting

Wednesday, February 14, 2024
13 Investigates if red flag laws could've prevented Lakewood shooting
The Lakewood shooting suspect's ex-mother-in-law says she had a history of severe mental illness and believes red flag laws could have prevented it.

HOUSTON, Texas (KTRK) -- When Walli Carranza first heard about the shooting at Lakewood Church on Sunday, she said she worried that her grandson was at the service with her ex-daughter-in-law, Genesse Moreno.

But, when she saw information about a 36-year-old shooter with a small boy with her at the scene, Carranza said her worries grew.

"I couldn't get ahold of Genesse by phone," Carranza said. "So I contacted HPD and asked them to do a welfare check. 'I know there's millions of millions of people in Houston, and I'm just being an over-reactive bubbe, an over-reactive grandma, but please go check.'"

The Houston Police Department said Moreno opened fire inside Lakewood Church on Sunday with an AR-15 but was taken down by two off-duty officers. She also had a .22-caliber rifle in her possession.

Carranza said Moreno had a documented history of severe mental illness after being diagnosed with schizophrenia.

A 2020 affidavit filed by Carranza's son, Enrique Carranza, outlines Moreno's mental illness, saying, "She has guns, and she brags about it while having my son in the car."

He even wrote that during one incident, Moreno "had a gun and my son in her hand."

In May 2020, Moreno posted a photo of a gun on Instagram with the caption, "How does one clean an AR-15?"

Walli Carranza said Moreno "became a very different person" when she wasn't on her medication for schizophrenia and shouldn't have been allowed to have any weapons.

"She threatened my son's life and my grandson's life, and she put my grandson in harm's way for seven years, not just now. But under all of that was a woman who just needed treatment," Carranza said.

Carranza said she believes Sunday's shooting, which also resulted in her 7-year-old grandson being shot in the head, could have been prevented with red flag laws.

Red flag laws, also known as extreme risk protection orders, allow a judge to temporarily prohibit a person from possessing or purchasing firearms or ammunition.

For example, under red flag laws in Florida, a law enforcement officer must file a petition alleging why the person whose weapons they want to restrict is a danger to themselves or others. Then, a judge holds a hearing before determining whether to grant a risk protection order that would take away a person's access to guns and ammunition.

Currently, 21 states have a red flag law. In 2019, even then-President Donald Trump backed this type of legislation after mass shootings in El Paso and Dayton, Ohio.

"We must make sure that those judged to pose a grave risk to public safety to not have access to firearms," Trump said back in 2019.

But in Texas, red flag laws have never gained momentum, not even after the mass shooting at a Uvalde elementary school in 2022.

Rep. Matthew Schaefer, R-Tyler, says it never will. He called red flag laws "pre-crime laws."

"When a crime has been committed or alleged, law enforcement has many tools at their disposal to address someone who has a firearm, so when people talk about red flag laws, they're talking about taking away someone's Second Amendment rights before any crime has been committee," Schaefer said.

Schaefer said if someone with mental illness threatens to hurt someone, that's a crime in itself.

He said that's one reason he believes there are no gaps in the current laws because while red flag laws will take weapons away from individuals deemed a threat to others, law enforcement can already charge them for making a threat.

"If a crime is being alleged or being committed, our law covers that," Schaefer said. "Criminals don't obey laws."

Police said Moreno legally purchased the gun used in the shooting in December. 13 Investigates asked the FBI for information on where Moreno purchased the weapon, but they referred us to HPD. ABC13 checked with HPD, but there is no word yet on where she bought it.

Nicole Golden, executive director of Texas Gun Sense, said Moreno showed warning signs, and it's possible that if Texas had red flag laws, her family might have been able to get her guns temporarily confiscated by a court order.

"Unfortunately, we know that the issue of gun safety has become overly politicized in ways it really shouldn't," Golden said. "We know we're on the right side. We know we speak for most Texans when we push for legislation like this, and we will continue. We know ultimately, it's going to pass in our state. It's just a matter of playing the long game until we get there."

For updates on this story, follow Kevin Ozebek on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.

Contact 13 Investigates

Have a tip? A problem to solve? Send a tip below. If you don't have a photo or document to include, just hit 'skip upload' and send the details. (On mobile? You can open our form by tapping here.)