Ocala, FL – Investigators are working to determine whether Florida’s “Stand Your Ground” law applies in a case involving a mother-of-four who was shot in front of her children during a confrontation outside her neighbor’s home late last week.
The incident occurred in the 1600-block of 108th Lane at approximately 9 p.m. on June 2, WESH reported.
Attorney Ben Crump, the lawyer representing the family of 32-year-old Ajike “AJ” Owens, said Owens’ children were playing in a field near their apartment complex that night when an unidentified 58-year-old woman “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,” Marion County Sheriff Billy Woods told reporters during a news conference on Monday, according to WESH.
Marion Deputies are investigating a shooting that killed a Ajike Owens,32. Deputies say the 58-year-old shooter was not happy with Owens kids playing in a lawn in front of her home. She threw something at the kids. When Owens went over to talk, the woman shot her through the door pic.twitter.com/jq9lZzwQSZ
— Dave Puglisi (@DavePuglisiTV) June 5, 2023
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.
Marion County Sheriff’s Office (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.
“The children are a big part of answering a lot our questions,” Sheriff Woods said.
The sheriff 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.
The neighbor who shot Owens has not been arrested or charged so far, but Sheriff Woods said the investigation is still underway, WOFL reported.
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. It’s believed that Owens’ children accidentally left the device behind in a field they were playing in, & the woman took it. pic.twitter.com/jfC6JJdQCS
— Ben Crump (@AttorneyCrump) June 5, 2023
The neighbor claimed she shot Owens in self-defense and that the case falls under Florida’s “Stand Your Ground law,” 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,” Sheriff Woods told reporters, 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.”
Sheriff Woods said he received multiple calls over the weekend from people who were concerned about rumors his office “wasn’t moving fast enough” or “wasn’t doing anything” about the fatal shooting, WESH reported.
“I want the family to know I am here to provide all of my resources to make sure justice is served in this case,” he said on Monday, adding that the investigation is still ongoing.
He said he also wanted to ensure he has experts on hand to properly handle the detailed questioning of Owens’ young children, WESH reported.
Marion County National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) President Bishop J. David Stockton said Owens’ death is just another example of a black person being met with violence while going about her daily life, according to NBC News.
“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,” Stockton said. “Our children and adults deserve to live in a world where they do not live in fear of their neighbors.”
Anthony Thomas, another attorney representing Owens’ family, has demanded the shooter be charged, NBC News reported.
“We need an arrest,” Thomas said. “Make no mistake about it. We do support our sheriff. But at the same time, we want him to do the job that he promised that he would do, and we want swift justice.”
A fundraising campaign established to help Owens’ family has raised more than $50,000 so far.