Ocala, FL – The woman who fired a gun through her front door and fatally shot her neighbor during a dispute about the neighbor’s children in early June will not be charged with murder, prosecutors confirmed on Monday.
State Attorney William Gladson said in a news release on June 26 that 58-year-old Susan Lorincz has been charged with manslaughter with a firearm and assault in connection with the June 2 shooting death of 35-year-old Ajike “AJ” Owens, WOFL reported.
Lorincz faces up to 30 years in prison if she is convicted, Gladson said.
The shooting occurred after Owens went to Lorincz’s home to confront her about an incident that took place between Owens’ children and Lorincz.
Investigators said Lorincz shot the mother-of-four through the unopened front door after Owens began pounding on it.
Marion County Sheriff Billy Woods said in a video briefing earlier this month that police were required by law to determine whether the state’s “Stand Your Ground” law applied in the case before any potential arrest could be made.
Sheriff Woods said detectives “worked around the clock” to answer that question.
“Lorincz’s actions were not justifiable under Florida law,” the Marion County Sheriff’s Office (MCSO) ultimately concluded.
She was arrested on June 6 and remained incarcerated at the Marion County Jail on a $154,000 bond on Monday, according to WOFL.
Owens’ family had demanded prosecutors charge Lorincz with second-degree murder, but Gladson said there was “insufficient evidence” to support the upgraded charge, WOFL reported.
Under the law, prosecutors would need to prove Lorincz had a “depraved mind” when she shot Owens – an element Gladson said doesn’t exist in this case.
“Depraved mind requires evidence of hatred, spite, ill will or evil intent toward the victim at the time of the killing,” the prosecutor said, according to WOFL. “Given the facts in this case, aiming a firearm at the door, and pulling the trigger is legally insufficient to prove depraved mind.”
The state also refused to file recommended misdemeanor charges of battery, culpable negligence, and assault against Lorincz, WOFL reported.
Gladson noted that a skate Lorincz allegedly threw at one of Owens’ children prior to the fatal shooting did not actually hit the child, thereby failing to meet the legal requirements of a battery charge.
Another of Owens’ children sad he was never in fear of Lorincz, which is a required element of an assault charge, WOFL reported.
“The crime of misdemeanor culpable negligence was not filed because there is no evidence to establish that the defendant knew the child was with his mother when she shot the victim in this case,” Gladson added.
Owens’ mother, Pamela Dias, told the news outlet her family was “devastated” to learn Lorincz will not face a murder charge.
“How do I explain to AJ’s children, my young grandbabies, that the loss of their mother’s life is still not being taken seriously?” Dias asked. “Only a living breathing AJ would be true justice, and today’s charge could not be further from that.”
Anthony Thomas, the attorney representing Owens’ family, said the charges are completely unacceptable.
“We are deeply disappointed by this decision,” Thomas told WOFL. “All the evidence unequivocally supports the elevation of this charge to second-degree murder. We firmly believe that justice demands nothing less.”
“The failure of the prosecutor to charge Susan with what truly reflected her wanton, reckless behavior undermines our ability to even get real accountability,” he continued. “Nevertheless, our resolve remains unwavering, and we will continue to fight.”
Gladson said he understands that the community is outraged by the tragic shooting, but that he is required to follow the law with regards to prosecution, WOFL reported.
“My obligation as State Attorney is to follow the law in each case that I prosecute,” he said. “I did so in this case, and while some may not agree with that decision, I can assure you that the decision was thoughtful and made without consideration of any factors other than the specific facts of this terrible crime. Simply stated, my obligation is to follow the law.”
“Understandably, emotions run high, particularly with senseless, violent crimes,” the state attorney added, according to WOFL. “However, I cannot allow any decision to be influenced by public sentiment, angry phone calls or further threats of violence, as I have received in this case. To allow that to happen would also be improper and a violation of my oath as a prosecutor and as a lawyer.”
The incident occurred in the 1600-block of 108th Lane at approximately 9 p.m. on June 2, WESH reported.
Civil rights attorney Ben Crump said Owens’ children were playing in a field near their apartment complex that night when a neighbor “began yelling at them to get off her land and calling them racial slurs,” NBC News reported.
Neighbors said the children took off for home and accidentally left an iPad behind, which the angry neighbor allegedly spotted and took, according to WFTV.
Investigators said that when the kids went over to the neighbor’s house to retrieve the iPad, she hurled a pair of skates at them, according to the news outlet.
Crump said the woman also allegedly threw the iPad at one of Owens’ sons, hitting him with it and causing the screen to crack, NBC News reported.
The children went home and told their mother about what occurred, according to WOFL.
Owens then headed over to the neighbor’s house to confront her about the incident.
“She knocked on the door, and at that point, the woman allegedly shot through the door,” Crump told NBC News.
The neighbor later told investigators Owens was yelling and banging on doors just before the shooting occurred, WFTV reported.
“Whether it be banging on the doors, banging on the walls and threats being made, and then at that moment is when Ms. Owens was shot through the door,” Sheriff Billy Woods told reporters during a news conference, according to WESH.
The children immediately ran to another home for help.
“Her children ran to my house, banging on the door, saying to call the police, that their mother was shot,” neighbor Ashley Remy told WESH.
MCSO deputies arrived to find Owens suffering from at least one gunshot wound.
She was rushed to a local hospital, where she was pronounced dead, WESH reported.
At least two of Owens’ children witnessed the shooting, according to NBC News.
The kids range in age from four to 13, according to WOFL.
Sheriff Woods said there was a long-standing “neighborhood feud” between Owens’ family and the woman who shot the mother of four, WESH reported.
He said deputies responded to the area between six and eight times in the past due to other disputes.
Lorincz claimed she shot Owens in self-defense, according to Sheriff Woods.
“That law has specific instructions for us and law enforcement, and any time that we think or perceive or believe that [the Stand Your Ground law] might come into play, we cannot make an arrest,” the sheriff told reporters prior Lorincz being charged, according to NBC News. “The law specifically says that, and what we have to rule out is whether the deadly force was justified or not before we can even make the arrest.”
“I wish our shooter would have called us instead of taking action into her own hands,” the sheriff added, according to WOFL. “I wish Mrs. Owens would have called in the hopes we could’ve never gotten to the point at which we are here today.”