Attorney Benjamin Crump, family of slain Ocala mom urge community to keep fighting
A majority of those sitting inside New St. John Missionary Baptist Church on Wednesday wiped away tears from their faces while listening to Pamela Dias talk about her daughter, Ajike "AJ" Shantrell Owens.
"She was a heart of gold," she told the room.
Last week, Owens, 35, was shot and killed outside an Ocala home by her neighbor Susan Louise Lorincz during a dispute over Owens' children playing outside. Dias said one of her grandsons feels guilty that he went and told his mother about what happened to them, which led Owens confronting the neighbor prior to being shot. Another blamed themself for not doing more to try and save their mom as she bled on the neighbor's lawn.
On Tuesday night, following a mass protest for justice, Marion County sheriff's detectives charged Owens' neighbor, Susan Louise Lorincz, 58, with manslaughter with a firearm, culpable negligence, two counts of assault and battery. She was taken to a local hospital for medical treatment and will make her first appearance once cleared.
"I pray for the strength, wisdom and ability to raise these children," Dias said. "This is not fair."
"Please do not let my daughter's dying go in vain."
Famed civil rights attorney Benjamin Crump and Anthony D. Thomas are representing the family.
Crump is no stranger to high-profile cases. The lawyer has represented, rallied and acted as the voice for several Black families who lost loved ones, including Breonna Taylor, George Floyd and Trayvon Martin.
At Wednesday's press conference following word of Lorincz's charges, Crump repeatedly shouted, "We want justice for AJ" to the crowd of about 100 people.
"Its so important because we cant have this message being sent ... that's its okay to shoot Black people in America for knocking on the door or ringing the doorbell," Crump said. "It's not okay."
Crump said the arrest was "a great relief" for the family, after waiting what he said felt like years for Owens' family and friends. He made clear that an arrest does not mean justice is served.
"Don't take it lightly or for granted," Crump said.
To the children, Crump said its not their fault and "they did nothing wrong," adding "they should not feel guilty."
"This senseless act of violence is not their fault," he said.
Crump, who thanked State Attorney Bill Gladson and Sheriff Billy Woods for the arrest, called on the State Attorney's Office to "zealously prosecute the killer of AJ Owens" and said he hopes charges are increased.
Crump said Owens funeral is scheduled for noon Monday at Immerse Church of Ocala, 5105 N. US 441, with the Rev. Al Sharpton giving the eulogy. She leaves behind three boys and a girl, whose ages are from 3 through 12.
Others who spoke included Ocala City Council member Ire Bethea said he's "deeply sadden" for their loss and wants the community to stay engage in their pursuit of justice.
"We're here to support you," Bethea said.
Otis Dias, Owens' brother, thanked everyone for their support. He said his sister always looked out for him.
A GoFundMe campaign has been set up for the Owens family and as of Wednesday afternoon, raised over $170,000.
Shooting and investigation
Owens was killed June 2 in her Quail Run neighborhood, located off County Road 475A, not far from County Road 484 in Ocala.
Lorincz's arrest report states that neighbors were outside "screaming and yelling" while children were running around. She said she had a headache and went inside to lay down. After a bit, she got up and went outside and saw three boys playing and told them they were trespassing and to leave. She said that's when they went to tell their mother, Owens.
Lorincz told the detective she has had problems with Owens and her children in the past. Crump, however, said Wednesday that it was more than a common neighborhood feud, but rather Lorincz antagonizing the kids.
When Owens arrived to Lorincz's property, according to the arrest report, Owens was banging on the door. Lorincz said it was so loud that she thought her door would break. She said Owens threatened to kill her and trying to get into her hours. Lorincz said she feared for her life and fired one round from a handgun through her front door, striking Owens in the chest near her shoulder.
Lorincz said she never looked outside and assumed it was Owens because of her voice. Deputies recovered two firearms from Lorincz's residence − a Ruger LCP II 22 LR and a Remington M380 380-caliber gun.
Sheriff's office officials said Lorincz regularly called and complained about the children trespassing on her property. It was determined that the location where the children were was a common area.
Several children were interviewed at Kimberly's Center for Child Protection. Their names were not released by law enforcement officials.
One child said he was playing basketball with friends when Lorincz took a tablet from his brother, who was in a grassy area. When Lorincz was told to return the electronic device, he said she threw it on the ground and began yelling. Lorincz also threw skates at one of the children who then went to get Owens, according to the arrest report.
One child said he went to Lorincz's door and told her that if she wanted to throw something to throw it at him. He said Lorincz came outside swinging an umbrella in his direction.
One child said he heard his mother, Owens, yelling at the neighbor "don't touch my son, throw something at me," and pounding on the door. The boy said he heard a loud noise and saw his mother running from the patio area. He said she fell on the ground and heard her saying to "call 911."
A second boy was interviewed said Lorincz cursed at the kids after throwing the tablet on the ground and told him to go get Owens. He made clear in his interview that Lorincz often complains about the kids playing in an open lot, even giving them a middle finger once. He said she regularly called them "bastards, "jackasses" and once said "this isn't the underground railroad slave."
Detectives interviewed other neighbors who said Lorincz has threatened the children and used racial slurs at them.
The property owners have informed detectives that Lorincz will also be evicted from the residence.
Contact Austin L. Miller at firstname.lastname@example.org or @almillerosb.