The family of a mother of four who was shot and killed by her neighbor in Ocala, Florida, has called on the police to arrest the woman who shot her.
Authorities identified the victim as 35-year-old Ajike “AJ” Owens, who was shot through a closed door after confronting the shooter over complaints about her children playing on or near the person’s property.
CNN reported that authorities and Owens’ family attorney confirmed she had a longtime dispute with the shooter dating back to January 2021 regarding the victim’s children.
On Monday, Marion County, Florida, Sheriff Billy Woods held a news conference and told reporters the department has information about the shooter’s identity. However, no arrest has been made in Owens’ death.
CNN reported that “a witness told police there had been a dispute over a child’s electronic tablet device prior to the shooter throwing the skates at the children, according to an incident report from the sheriff’s office.”
Woods asked the public to remain patient as authorities investigated the shooting. He also stated that the department was working to obtain video footage of the incident and interview the children who witnessed what happened. During the conference, the sheriff mentioned the state’s “stand your ground law” and why the woman is not in custody.
“What a lot of people don’t understand is that law has specific instructions for us in law enforcement,” he said, according to CNN. “Any time that we think, or perceive or believe that that might come into play, we cannot make an arrest, the law specifically says that.”
The law was enacted in 2005, stating that people can resort to using deadly force if they believe they or someone else is in danger at the hand of the alleged attacker.
“What we have to rule out is whether the deadly force was justified or not before we can even make the arrest,” Woods added.
According to reports, the shooter had engaged with Owens’ children before the deadly incident. She allegedly threw a pair of skates at them, which hit one of them, Woods said. However, there are conflicting reports about the object used to strike the children; civil rights attorney Ben Crump, who represents the family, said it was an iPad, CBS News reported.
“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,” Crump tweeted.
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
“Was something thrown at them? Yes, but not directly at them is what we’re being told now. It just unfortunately may have hit them,” Woods said, according to CBS News.
One of the children went back to their home and told Owens what happened, prompting her to “confront the lady” at her home, Woods said, CNN reported. Owens knocked on the woman’s door and seconds later, she was shot through the door. Woods said police are under the impression that there was “a lot of aggressiveness” from both sides.
Deputies responded to a trespassing call Friday night and discovered the 35-year-old had an apparent gunshot wound. Owens was transported to a local hospital and pronounced dead, authorities said, per CNN.
“Here’s what I wish: I wish our shooter would have called us instead of taking actions into her own hands. I wish Ms. Owens would have called us, in hopes we could have never got to the point in which we are here today,” Woods said.
“Pray for those children. Pray for each and every one of them,” he added. “Their life has changed.”
A separate press conference was held by Owens’ family, demanding justice for the shooting death of a beloved mother of four. The woman’s mother, Pamela Dias, said the shooter had called the family and children racial slurs, and that the shooter never opened the door for Owens. Instead, she shot her through the front door of her home.
“My daughter, my grandchildren’s mother, was shot and killed with her 9-year-old son standing next to her. She had no weapon, she posed no imminent threat to anyone,” Dias said, according to CNN.
“What I’m asking is for justice,” she added. “Justice for my daughter.”