Florida mom Ajike Owens killed by neighbor: Shooting sparks protests, Stand Your Ground discussions
An Ocala mother of four was shot and killed following a two-year feud with a neighbor who had complained about the victim’s children playing outside, authorities and family members said.
The shooting has sparked discussion and protests both locally and nationwide, demanding justice for victim Ajike "A.J." Owens.
Here is what we know about the shooting and the response.
What happened to Ajike Owens in Ocala, Florida, on June 2?
According to a press release issued by the family's attorney Ben Crump, Owens' children were playing in a field next to one of the buildings in Quail Run, when one of the neighbors, later identified as Susan Louise Lorincz, yelled at the children.
Lorincz, who is white, is accused of calling the children racial slurs and ordering them to get off her property.
The children left but forgot an iPad, which was taken by Lorincz. When one of the children went back for the electronic device, she reportedly threw it and it hit a child, cracking the screen, family members said.
Owens, who is Black, was told about the incident and went to the Lorincz's residence to find out what happened. The mother of four knocked on the door, but it allegedly never opened. Owens was then shot while her 9-year-old son was standing by.
Marion County Sheriff's County confirmed Owens was shot through the door. Their report also shows Owens’ children — ages 12, 9, 7 and 2 — were at the scene of the shooting when deputies arrived.
Who is Ajike "A.J." Owens?
Ajike "A.J." Owens is a mother of four in Ocala, Florida.
In a GoFundMe bio, family members describe Owens as someone who "affected all she came into contact with her infectious personality, who had a smile that would light up the room."
They also commented on Owens as a mother to her children and her role within the community.
"Most of all, she was known for how much she loved and absolutely lived for her four children. To say she loved her children unconditionally is an understatement. She was a single mother whose life centered around her children. She was the Team Mom for her children’s football/cheerleading teams. She excelled professionally as a manager in the Restaurant/Hospitality industry," the family writes.
"She was a devoted Christian who believed in bringing her kids up in a supportive Christian environment. After being a devoted mother, she was a devoted friend that took friendships to heart. There wasn’t anything that she wouldn’t do for those near and dear to her heart. She often would give to other single mothers that were in similar situations that she’d been in."
What was the reported 'feud' between neighbors Susan Lorincz and Ajike "A.J." Owens?
According to law enforcement and witnesses, the feud between Owens and Lorincz is well-documented.
Marion County Sheriff Billy Woods said during a news conference on Monday that deputies have responded over 10 times since January 2021 for a “neighborhood feud” between Owens and Lorincz.
An incident report released by the sheriff’s office on Tuesday shows incidents, such as when Lorincz had called deputies in February 2022, reporting that Owens was on her property with a dog and threw a “no trespassing” sign at her. She said the sign hit her left shin and caused a red mark, though deputies did not see any visible injuries.
Has Marion County Sheriff's Office arrested the shooter?
Susan Louise Lorincz, 58, was arrested Tuesday on charges of manslaughter with a firearm, culpable negligence, battery and two counts of assault in the death of Ajike Owens, Woods said in a statement.
When interviewed by MCSO, Lorincz claimed that she "acted in self-defense and that Owens had been trying to break down her door prior to her discharging her firearm." Lorincz also claimed that Owens had come after her in the past and had previously attacked her.
Through their investigation – including obtaining the statements of eyewitnesses who only came forward as late as yesterday – Woods said detectives were able to establish that Lorincz’s actions were not justifiable under Florida law.
"I want to thank my detectives for working tirelessly to fully investigate this case. I also want to thank Ms. Owens’ family for their patience as we conducted the diligent investigation that we were bound by law to conduct," Woods said in a statement video. "Ms. Lorincz’s fate is now in the hands of the judicial system, which I trust will deliver justice in due course. As I go to bed tonight, I will be saying a prayer for Ms. Owens’ children and the rest of her family. I’d ask all of you to do the same.”
What is Florida's Stand Your Ground law?
At the time of the shooting, Woods pointed out that because of Florida’s stand-your-ground law, he could not legally make an arrest unless he could prove the shooter did not act in self-defense.
According to the 2019 Florida Statues Chapter 776, which covers justifiable homicide, “a person is justified in using or threatening to use deadly force if he or she reasonably believes that using or threatening to use such force is necessary to prevent imminent death or great bodily harm to himself or herself or another or to prevent the imminent commission of a forcible felony.”
Stand your ground explained:What is Florida's 'stand your ground' law? Here are five questions (and answers) to explain
Essentially, it’s considered justifiable in Florida to use or threaten to use deadly force to defend yourself if you think you’re in danger of being killed or seriously harmed by another person. Unlike the laws in some other states, you’re not required to try to run away first.
However, the law does have limitations. For example, it doesn’t apply if the person who’s defending himself or herself is engaging in some form of criminal activity. It also does not apply if a person uses deadly force against a law enforcement officer who is “acting in the performance of his or her official duties.”
Florida also does not have the “duty to retreat,” which is the expectation that a person who’s being threatened with bodily harm will make a reasonable attempt to escape from the situation before resorting to using deadly force. The statute says "A person who is obeying the law and in a place where he or she is permitted to be has no obligation to try to get away."
The law has faced criticism over the years, with activists saying it may embolden gun owners to use deadly force when it might not be necessary by fostering a “shoot-first” mentality. In a 2022 panel, NAACP Lakeland Branch president Terry Coney discussed how the law was used to make life "tougher for Black Americans," and part of a larger discussion of racism.
"I've seen things written … yeah, it was the law but was it right, was it moral," Coney said. "We're constantly fighting these laws."
What has been the reaction from the Ocala community?
Days following the killing of Owens, more than 250 people were at New St. John Missionary Baptist Church on Tuesday afternoon demanding justice.
Anthony D. Thomas, one of two lawyers representing the Owens family other than Crump, was one of several speakers who spoke at the press conference. Crump was not at the event.
Thomas said the family and the community need justice for the unlawful killing of Owens. He said they, and the community, are standing in solidarity. Thomas said Sheriff Billy Woods said he wants to see justice and he's going to hold him to it.
Beyond Ocala, Owens's death has sparked further nationwide discussion on race and Florida's gun laws.