Family members demanded justice at a press conference Monday after a mother of four was shot and killed through a closed door in Florida following a dispute with her neighbor.
No arrest has been made in the shooting death of Ajike “AJ” Owens, which took place in Ocala on Friday, though Marion County Sheriff Billy Woods said police know the identity of the shooter.
Woods said his office is working to determine what role the state’s “stand your ground” laws might play in the shooting. Under Florida’s “stand your ground” law, enacted in 2005, people can use deadly force if they feel their lives are in danger.
“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,” Woods said during a separate Monday press conference. “And what we have to rule out is whether this deadly force was justified or not before we can even make the arrest.”
“This is not a whodunnit. We know who did the shooting,” Woods said. The sheriff’s office has not publicly identified the shooter.
Woods said police were waiting to speak with Owens’ children to obtain additional information out of respect for the children and also so police can ensure the appropriate people conduct the interviews.
The accused shooter and Owens’ children were involved in some kind of dispute before the deadly incident, Woods said. From what police have been able to determine so far, there were ongoing disputes involving Owens’ children walking on the neighbor’s lawn. According to Woods, deputies have responded about a half dozen times since January 2021 to calls concerning the ongoing “neighborhood feud.”
On Friday, there allegedly was a confrontation between the children and the neighbor. The neighbor threw an object at the children, hitting one of them, Woods said. Ben Crump, one of the attorneys representing Owens’ family, said it was an iPad, while Woods said it was a pair of skates.
“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.
Owens’ eldest child told Owens about what happened, and Owens went to the neighbor’s home to confront her, Woods said. Conceding that his office has been able to get only “one side” of the story so far, Woods said police believe there “was aggressiveness back and forth from both of them.”
“I wish our shooter would have called us instead of taking actions into her own hands,” Woods said.
“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.
Speaking at a press conference Monday, Owens’ mother said the neighbor’s door was locked and remained closed during the confrontation.
“My daughter, my grandchildren’s mother, was shot and killed with her 9-year-old son standing next to her,” she said. “She had no weapon, she posed no imminent threat to anyone.”
In nearby Flagler County, a Florida man was arrested on May 27 for allegedly pointing a gun at a woman’s head after her friend briefly turned into his driveway, authorities said. The incident was captured on video. Terry Vetsch, 60, was charged with aggravated assault with a deadly weapon without intent to kill, according to jail records.