Arrest made in death of Black Florida mother who was killed after knocking on neighbor's door

Investigators had to consider Florida's 'stand your ground' law before making an arrest, the sheriff said.

ByElizabeth Wolfe, CNN, CNNWire
Wednesday, June 7, 2023
Woman arrested in connection to shooting death of neighbor in Florida
Authorities say Ajike "AJ" Owens was shot through the door of her neighbor's home near Ocala, Florida. Susan Louise Lorincz, was arrested on charges of manslaughter with a firearm.

OCALA, Florida -- A woman has been arrested in connection with the death of Ajike "AJ" Owens, the Black mother who authorities say was fatally shot last week in central Florida after knocking on a neighbor's door, a sheriff's office spokesperson said.

Susan Louise Lorincz, 58, was arrested on charges of manslaughter with a firearm, culpable negligence, battery and two counts of assault, the Marion County Sheriff's Office said early Wednesday.

Lorincz, who is White, was taken into custody Tuesday night, the sheriff's office said. It was not immediately clear whether she has an attorney.

Authorities say Owens was shot through the door of her neighbor's home near Ocala, Florida, on Friday. Owens' family and attorneys had demanded that her killer be arrested and charged. Her family has also accused Lorincz of yelling at Owens' children and calling them racial slurs prior to the shooting.

When interviewed, Lorincz claimed that she acted in self defense and that Owens had been trying to break down her door prior to her discharging her firearm, according to a news release the sheriff's office. Lorincz also said Owens had come after her in the past and had previously attacked her, the release said.

"Through their investigation - including obtaining the statements of eyewitnesses who only came forward as late as yesterday - detectives were able to establish that Lorincz's actions were not justifiable under Florida law," the sheriff's office said.

Prosecutors had been working with investigators in Marion County to determine whether they will file charges in the case, Fifth Judicial Chief Assistant State Attorney Walter Forgie said Tuesday.

Marion County Sheriff Billy Woods said Monday that investigators had to consider Florida's "stand your ground" law before making an arrest. The statute allows people to respond with deadly force if they reasonably believe they are being threatened with death or serious injury, and says they don't have to retreat if they're "not engaged in a criminal activity and ... in a place where he or she has a right to be."

Woods emphasized Monday that authorities had largely only heard the perspective of the shooter, who has not been publicly named, and were still working to interview Owens' children, who witnessed the killing.

Investigators have determined Owens knocked on Lorincz's door to confront her after the she threw a pair of skates at her children, hitting at least one of them, according to Woods.

This Jan. 14, 2023, photo released by attorney Anthony D. Thomas, shows Ajike "AJ" Owens, a 35-year-old mother of four from Ocala, Fla.
Anthony D. Thomas via AP

Owens' family has insisted that her killing was unjustified.

"My daughter, my grandchildren's mother, was shot and killed with her 9-year-old son standing next to her," Owens' mother, Pamela Dias, said Monday. "She had no weapon, she posed no imminent threat to anyone."

Owens' family and their attorneys, Ben Crump and Anthony Thomas, are expected to hold a press conference Wednesday.

Witness described dispute before shooting

One witness told a sheriff's deputy that children were playing in a nearby field before the shooting and a dispute ensued as the neighbor picked up an electronic tablet that one of the children left on the ground, according to an incident report.

The shooter "engaged" with Owens' children and threw a pair of skates at them, hitting at least one, according to Woods.

One of Owens' children then went home and told the mother what had happened, prompting Owens to walk over to the neighbor's house and knock on the door, Woods said.

As Owens confronted the neighbor, Owens was shot through the door, the sheriff said. When deputies responded to the scene Friday night after receiving a trespassing call, they found Owens laying in the grass with a gunshot wound, the incident report said.

A patched bullet hole, upper right, is seen on a door, Tuesday, June 6, 2023, where Ajike Owens, a 35-year-old mother of four, was shot and killed the week before.
AP Photo/John Raoux

The mother was then brought to a hospital, where she was pronounced dead, authorities have said.

Family demands justice for single mother of four

Owens' family and attorneys gathered at a news conference Monday to demand justice for her, saying that her killing was unwarranted and unprovoked.

In an interview with MSNBC on Monday, Owens' mother said Owens acted "as any parent would do."

"She simply knocked on the door, was unarmed, no weapons. She just wanted answers. She wanted to speak to another adult regarding the incident with her 9-year-old son," Dias told MSNBC.

A single mother of four, Owens has been remembered by her loved ones as a dedicated caretaker of her family and an infectiously positive person.

"She had a smile that would light up the room," reads a verified GoFundMe page started by her family. "But most of all, she was known for how much she loved and absolutely lived for her four children."

"There wasn't anything that she wouldn't do for those near and dear to her heart. She often would give to other single mothers that were in similar situations that she'd been in," the fundraiser page said.

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