UPDATE: Police arrested a woman on Tuesday in connection to the shooting death of Ajike (AJ) Owens in Ocala, Fla., according to the Marion County Sheriff’s Office.
Susan Lorincz, 58, was charged with manslaughter with a firearm, culpable negligence, battery and two counts of assault. The manslaughter charge alone carries a potential maximum sentence of 30 years in prison.
After the arrest, Sheriff Billy Woods said on Tuesday night that Florida’s controversial “stand your ground” law does not apply in this case. He said when Lorincz, who is white, shot through her front door at Owens, who is Black, the incident was “simply a killing.”
The stand your ground law, which permits the use of deadly force if one is facing the imminent threat of death, prevented police from making a more immediate arrest.
“The laws here in the state of Florida are clear,” Woods said. “Now I may not like them. I may not agree with them. But however, those laws I will follow.”
Owens and Lorincz allegedly had a longstanding “neighbourhood feud” about where Owens’ four children were playing in the area.
When questioned by police, Lorincz said she was acting in self-defence and claimed Owens was attempting to knock down the door to her home, the sheriff’s office said. Lorincz also claimed Owens had attacked her previously.
Protests over Owens’ death continue in Florida over claims she was a victim of racial injustice. A memorial to Owens was created near where she was shot, the Associated Press reported. There, protestors have been carrying signs reading “Say her name Ajike Owens” and “It’s about us.”
Original story: Outrage is growing in Ocala, Fla. after a mother of four was shot and killed on Friday during a dispute with her neighbour.
Ajike (AJ) Owens, who is Black, was shot through the closed front door of her neighbour’s home around 9 p.m. local time. She visited the neighbour, an unidentified 58-year-old white woman, to allegedly confront her about “harming her children,” according to a police report obtained by the Washington Post.
One of Owens’ children, a nine-year-old boy, was allegedly standing beside his mother when she was shot. Owens, 35, later died from her injuries.
A high-profile civil rights lawyer representing the Owens family, Ben Crump, tweeted about the case on Monday and called Owens’ death an “unjust killing.”
“This is Ajike ‘AJ’ Owens — a mother of 4 fatally shot after she reportedly knocked on the door of a white woman’s residence to retrieve her child’s iPad,” he wrote. “It’s believed that Owens’ children accidentally left the device behind in a field they were playing in, & the woman took it.”
In a separate statement from Crump’s law firm, he claimed Owens’ four children had been playing in a field next to an Ocala apartment complex before the incident.
He alleged the woman began “yelling” at the children to get off the lawn while “calling them racial slurs.”
As the children left the field, they forgot their iPad, which Crump said the woman took. When one child went to retrieve it, the woman allegedly threw the device at the minor. Crump said it hit the boy and cracked the iPad’s screen.
After her children told their mother about the incident, Owens, who was not armed, reportedly went to confront the woman and was shot.
Police said they were called to the scene around 9 p.m. after a report of trespassing. When they arrived, Owens already had a gunshot wound and had collapsed under a tree. She was surrounded by several locals as they attempted to help. They told police the shooter was still inside the residence.
At a press conference Monday, Marion County Sheriff Billy Woods said the facts surrounding the shooting are still unclear. Police are currently investigating the incident.
Woods said Owens and the shooter had a longstanding “neighbourhood feud” to do with her children.
“I’ve got reports that one side or the other — either the mother, Ms. Owens, or the shooter — has called,” Woods said at the press conference. He said the shooter’s complaints to police were to do with “children being children.”
Some reports have claimed the shooter threw a pair of skates at the children, not an iPad. Woods could not confirm or deny this but said an object was thrown.
“Was something thrown at them? Yes, but not directly at them,” Woods said. “It just unfortunately may have hit them.”
Woods said at least two of the children witnessed Owens being shot through the closed door.
Police are investigating to see if Florida’s “stand your ground” law applies in this shooting. Under this law, the use of deadly force is an affirmative defence if the suspect was protecting themselves or others from the imminent threat of death or great bodily harm, without the possibility to retreat to a safe place. Police cannot make an arrest in the case until this is determined.
“I wish our shooter would have called us instead of taking actions into her own hands,” Woods said.
Also on Monday, Owens’ family, alongside Crump, held a separate press conference.
Owens’ mother, Pamela Dias, said Owens was protecting her children at the time of the shooting.
“My daughter, my grandchildren’s mother, was shot and killed with her nine-year-old son standing next to her. She had no weapon. She posed no imminent threat to anyone,” Dias said.
Bishop J. David Stockton III, the Marion County NAACP president, said Owens’ death is just another example of the kinds of injustice Black Americans face while performing normal tasks.
“The truth is we’ve gotten to a point where Black folks are almost living in a day where we are afraid to go outside,” he said. “Our children and adults deserve to live in a world where they do not live in fear of their neighbours.”
A GoFundMe was started for Owens’ family. Dias, who created the page, wrote that her daughter, “a devoted and loving mother of four, was tragically and unjustifiably murdered in an attempt to protect her children from racism and violence.”
The page has already raised over US$72,500 in one day.