A woman in Ocala, Fla., 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 that is complicated by the state’s “stand your ground” law after days without a decision on possible charges.
Marion County Sheriff Billy Woods said his deputies had initially responded to “a trespassing call” on Friday at about 9 p.m., but by the time they had arrived, they found “the victim suffering from a gunshot wound.”
Ajike Owens, 35, a mother of four, was given first aid and taken to the hospital, where she was pronounced dead, the sheriff’s office said. The shooter, a woman, has not been identified by the authorities.
The sheriff said the confrontation came after “a neighborhood feud over time” and “there was a lot of aggressiveness” at the door, “whether it be banging on the doors, banging on the walls and threats being made,” though he noted that it was an incomplete account of the dispute. Sheriff Woods did not offer many details on how the shooting unfolded, saying his office did not have all the facts and citing an ongoing investigation.
The civil-rights attorney Ben Crump, speaking for the Owens family, complained in a statement on Facebook that the shooter “HASN’T been arrested or charged with anything by law enforcement for the unjust killing.”
Ms. Owens, a Black woman, had gone to the neighboring home to retrieve an iPad that her children had forgotten after playing in a nearby field, and that the woman, who is white, had taken, Mr. Crump said in the statement.
At a news conference in Ocala on Monday, the family of Ms. Owens, their legal team and community leaders called on the authorities to arrest the shooter, saying that everyone knew who she was.
Pamela Dias, Ms. Owens’s mother, said that one of her daughter’s children, a 9-year-old boy, had been standing next to his mother when she was shot.
“She was rendered voiceless,” Ms. Dias said. “We are here on her behalf. We are here on behalf of the four kids that are left behind, without a mother.”
Sheriff Woods said he had received multiple messages of concern about the shooting and about the pace at which the investigation was unfolding, adding that his office’s investigators have been working on the case since the night of the shooting and that his office has been in talks with the Florida attorney general’s office.
“Anytime something this tragic happens, there are always a lot of questions,” he said at a news conference on Monday. “A lot of people don’t understand how the laws in the state of Florida sometimes work.”
The sheriff said that Florida’s “stand your ground” law, which allows persons to defend themselves with force if they reasonably believe they have been threatened, makes it so that investigators need to rule out “whether deadly force was justified or not before we make an arrest.”
Ms. Owens’s shooting is the latest of similar incidents that have renewed focus on the legal protections for people who say they have feared for their safety. Some have involved cases where victims have mistakenly approached the wrong house.
Florida is one of about 30 states that have “stand your ground” laws, where self-defense protections apply in any place a person has a legal right to be, not just at home.
Local leaders who attended the news conference with the sheriff voiced support for the investigation and urged the community to remain calm while it takes place.
Mr. Crump and Anthony D. Thomas, another attorney working with the family, issued a statement describing what they said happened. It said Ms. Owens’s children had been playing in a field next to an apartment complex, when the woman yelled at them to get off her property and used racial slurs. The children left, forgetting an iPad. When one of them returned to retrieve it, the woman threw it at them, hitting the child, it 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’s nickname.
Asked to confirm whether Mr. Crump’s statement was accurate, Sheriff Woods said that “some of it is, some of it isn’t.” He said the item thrown at the children was a pair of skates. He did not have information about how many shots were fired.
There were about “six to eight” reports of wide-ranging disputes in an ongoing feud between the woman and Ms. Owens about the children, including about where they had been playing, he said.
Christine Hauser is a reporter, covering national and foreign news. Her previous jobs in the newsroom include stints in Business covering financial markets and on the Metro desk in the police bureau. @ChristineNYT
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