Ajike ‘AJ’ Owens shot through door in Ocala; family demands arrest

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Calls are growing for an arrest to be made in Florida after a Black mother of four was shot and killed by her White neighbor through the neighbor’s door — apparently over a long-running dispute involving the victim’s children.

Around 9 p.m. Friday, deputies received a call about possible trespassing at a property in Ocala, Fla., approximately 50 miles south of Gainesville, Marion County Sheriff Billy Woods said Monday during a news conference. When the officers arrived, they found a woman suffering from a gunshot wound, Woods said. They tried to save her but she later died, Woods said, calling it a “tragic” incident.

Officials identified the victim as Ajike S. Owens, 35, also known as “AJ,” a mother of four. They said the suspect is a 58-year-old White woman, whom they did not identify.

Lawyers representing Owens’s family said the shooting was “unjustified,” and alleged that the shooter used racist language against her children.

No charges have been filed in the case. Woods said his office could not make an arrest until it determined whether the use of force was justified under Florida’s “Stand Your Ground” law. The law states that a person can use deadly force if they reasonably believe it could “prevent imminent death or great bodily harm to himself or herself or another.”

“Stand Your Ground” laws have come under renewed scrutiny in the wake of the shooting of Ralph Yarl, a Black teenager who was shot in Kansas City after he rang the wrong doorbell.

Yarl shooting may revive ‘stand your ground’ debate: Explaining the laws

After a dispute between Owens’s children and the neighbor Friday, Owens went to the shooter’s house to confront her about striking one of her children with a pair of roller skates, according to the police report.

People at the scene told police that Owens had begun knocking on her neighbor’s door when a weapon was fired from within the home. Bullets went through the front door and hit Owens.

Owens staggered back and collapsed beneath a tree, calling 911 as she did, according to the police report. When police arrived, people were gathered around her, trying to give her medical aid.

They began “screaming that the shooter was inside of the residence,” Marion County Sheriff’s Deputy Michael Stringer wrote in a report.

The alleged shooter stayed in her house until police arrived and took her into custody, according to their report.

Civil rights attorney Ben Crump, a lawyer representing members of Owens’s family, said in a statement that the shooter should be arrested and that racial dynamics were at play.

According to Crump’s statement, Owens’s children “were playing in a field next to an Ocala apartment complex” Friday “when an unidentified 58-year-old white woman reportedly began yelling at them to get off her land and calling them racial slurs.” Friday’s incident appeared to have been tied to “a neighborhood feud over time,” Woods said.

According to Crump, Owens’s children left the area after the altercation, but “accidentally left an iPad behind, which the woman took. When one of the children went to her residence to retrieve it, she threw it, hitting the boy and cracking the screen.”

The police report did not confirm that the woman had thrown an iPad, but said there had been a dispute over the children’s tablet and that witnesses said the woman had “thrown roller skates at the juveniles.”

That led the children’s mother to knock on the neighbor’s door to talk to her “about harming the children,” Marion County Sheriff’s Deputy Ashton Welfenberg wrote in the police report.

Owens “knocked on the door, and at that point, the woman allegedly shot through the door, hitting AJ, who later died from her injuries,” the statement said.

Owens’s mother, Pamela Dias, said in an interview with MSNBC’s Joy Reid that her daughter did what “any parent would do” in confronting the neighbor. “She simply knocked on the door. The woman shot her through the closed door, with her son, 9 years old, standing next to her,” Dias said. She said Owens was unarmed. The sheriff’s office said this had not been confirmed.

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Police collected two firearms, bullets and other evidence at the scene, the report showed. Many details of the report were redacted by the sheriff’s office.

The sheriff’s office said the investigation had been delayed because Owens’s children, at least two of whom may have witnessed the shooting, could not be interviewed immediately after the incident because of its traumatic nature. The sheriff’s office confirmed via email that Owens’s children were interviewed about the incident Monday.

The sheriff’s office is receiving information from the shooter, who is cooperating with investigators, Woods said.

“A lot of the rumors and questions out there have been that we’re not doing anything or we’re not moving fast enough,” he said. “[B]ecause we want to seek justice and we want to ensure that we get the facts right — especially in a case to this level — we just don’t take always one side, because it doesn’t always paint the full picture.”

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Woods, when asked Monday about parts of Crump’s statement, said he could not yet confirm or deny the allegations, including what was thrown by the neighbor and whether it was directly at the children.

Woods, citing information from the alleged shooter, said “there was a lot of aggressiveness” at the door from both neighbors, “whether it be banging on the doors, banging on the walls and threats being made.”

In the past two years, sheriff’s deputies had received six to eight calls relating to the property where Friday’s shooting took place, Woods said.

“I wish our shooter would have called us instead of taking actions into her own hands. I wish Mrs. Owens would have called us, in hopes we could have never got to the point in which we are here today,” he said.

Source link: https://www.washingtonpost.com/nation/2023/06/06/ajike-aj-owens-shooting-ocala-florida/

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