A Florida state attorney declined to pursue murder charges against a white woman accused of fatally shooting her Black neighbor through a door, he announced Monday. Susan Lorincz has been charged with manslaughter with a firearm and assault in the June 2 shooting death of Ajike Owens.
State Attorney William Gladson said his office determined there was insufficient evidence to file a murder charge against Lorincz. Charging Lorincz with murder would require prosecutors to provide evidence of hatred, spite, ill will or evil intent toward the victim at the time of the killing.
“As deplorable as the defendant’s actions were in this case, there is insufficient evidence to prove this specific and required element of second-degree murder,” Gladson said. “As is always true in criminal cases, failure to prove beyond a reasonable doubt even one element of a crime will result in a not guilty verdict. Given the facts in this case, aiming a firearm at the door and pulling the trigger is legally insufficient to prove depraved mind.”
The Marion County Sheriff’s Office had also charged Lorincz with culpable negligence and battery, but Gladson’s office is not pursuing those charges based on testimony from witnesses in the case.
Gladson said he would not be pushed to file charges based on community pressure or public sentiment.
“Simply stated, my obligation is to follow the law. Understandably, emotions run high, particularly with senseless, violent crimes. However, I cannot allow any decision to be influenced by public sentiment, angry phone calls or further threats of violence, as I have received in this case,” he said. “To allow that to happen would also be improper and a violation of my oath as a prosecutor and as a lawyer.”
Lorincz faces up to 30 years in prison if convicted.
After Lorincz’s June 9 bond hearing, Anthony Thomas, an Owens’ family attorney, formally requested that the heaviest charge be upgraded from manslaughter to second-degree murder. He said he was deeply disappointed Gladson was not pursuing murder charges.
“All the evidence unequivocally supports the elevation of this charge to second-degree murder,” Thomas said. “We firmly believe that justice demands nothing less. The failure of the prosecutor to charge Susan with what truly reflected her wanton, reckless behavior undermines our ability to even get real accountability. Nevertheless, our resolve remains unwavering, and we will continue to fight.”
Pamela Dias, Owens’ mother, said she didn’t know how to explain the charges to her grandchildren. “Only a living breathing AJ would be true justice, and today’s charge could not be further from that,” she said.
Many in the community quickly called for the suspect’s arrest after the shooting. Officers waited several days before arresting Lorincz as they worked to determine what role the state’s “stand your ground” laws might play in the shooting of her neighbor. Under Florida’s “stand your ground” law, enacted in 2005, people can use deadly force if they feel their lives are in danger.
Sheriff Billy Woods said the shooting was the culmination of a 2-and-a-half-year feud between the neighbors. Lorincz had been angry over Owens’ children playing in a field close to her apartment.
The alleged shooter told detectives that she called the victim’s children racist slurs in the months leading up to the slaying, admitting that she used “the n-word.”
Civil rights attorney Ben Crump, who is one of the lawyers representing Owens’ family, had called on the state attorney’s office to “zealously prosecute” the shooter. “This is not a difficult case,” Crump previously said.