An Ocala, Fla., woman who confronted a neighbor who had thrown an object at her children was shot and killed « through the door » of the residence, the local sheriff said, in a case complicated by the « position of the state your ground,” he reads after days without a decision on possible charges.
Marion County Sheriff Billy Woods said his deputies had initially responded to « a breaking and entering call » on Friday at about 9 p.m., but when they arrived they found « the victim injured by a gunshot. » .
Ajike Owens, 35, a mother of four, received first aid and was taken to the hospital, where she was pronounced dead, the sheriff’s office said. The killer, a woman, has not been identified by authorities.
The sheriff said the confrontation came after « a neighborhood feud over time » and « there was a lot of aggression » at the door, « whether it was door knocking, wall pounding and threats, » though he noted that it was an incomplete account of the dispute. Sheriff Woods didn’t give many details about how the shooting unfolded, saying his office didn’t have all the facts and citing an ongoing investigation.
Civil rights attorney Ben Crump, speaking on behalf of the Owens family, complained in a Facebook statement that the killer « has NOT been arrested or charged with anything by law enforcement for the wrongful killing. »
Ms Owens, a black woman, had gone to the neighboring house to retrieve an iPad her children had forgotten after playing in a nearby field and which the woman, who is white, had taken, Mr Crump said in the statement.
At a press conference in Ocala on Monday, Ms. Owens’ family, their legal team and community leaders he called the authorities to arrest the shooter, saying that everyone knew who he was.
Pamela Dias, Ms Owens’ mother, said one of her daughter’s children, a 9-year-old boy, was standing next to his mother when she was shot.
« She was rendered voiceless, » Ms Dias said. “We are here for you. We are here on behalf of the four motherless children. »
Sheriff Woods said he had received numerous messages of concern about the shooting and the pace at which the investigation was unfolding, adding that detectives in his office had been working on the case since the night of the shooting and that his office had talks with the Florida Attorney General’s Office.
« Whenever something this tragic happens, there are always a lot of questions, » she said he said at a news conference on Monday. « A lot of people don’t understand how laws work in the state of Florida sometimes. »
The sheriff said Florida’s « stand your ground » law, which allows people to defend themselves with force if they reasonably believe they’ve been threatened, makes investigators have to rule out « whether or not deadly force was warranted. » before making an arrest. »
Ms Owens’ shooting is the latest in similar incidents that have renewed attention on legal protections for people who say they feared for their safety. Some have involved cases where victims mistakenly approached the wrong house.
Florida is one of about 30 states that have read « defend your position ».where self-defense protections apply anywhere a person has a legal right to be, not just at home.
Local leaders who attended the press conference with the sheriff expressed support for the investigation and urged the community to remain calm as it unfolds.
Mr. Crump and Anthony D. Thomas, another attorney who works with the family, issued a declaration describing what they said happened. She said Ms Owens’ children were playing in a field near an apartment complex when she yelled at them to get off her property and she used racial slurs. The kids have left, forgetting an iPad. When one of them returned to retrieve it, the woman threw it at them, hitting the child, she said.
When her children told her what had happened, Ms Owens crossed the street with them to speak to the woman, the lawyer said. She knocked on the door and the woman « allegedly shot through the door, hitting AJ, » the statement said, using Ms. Owens’ nickname.
Asked to confirm whether Mr. Crump’s statement was accurate, Sheriff Woods said « some of it is, some of it isn’t. » He said the object thrown at the kids was a pair of skates. He had no information on how many shots had been fired.
There have been about « six to eight » reports of wide-ranging disputes in an ongoing feud between the woman and Ms Owens over children, including where they were playing, she said.