A Black mother of four was shot dead through a closed door in Florida after a dispute with a white neighbour who had earlier allegedly bombarded her children with “racial slurs”.
Ajike “AJ” Owens, a resident of Ocala, had an ongoing dispute with her neighbour over her children walking over her ground, according to local officials. Police did not name the neighbour, but CNN cited an incident report that identified her as a 58-year-old white woman.
According to family and witness accounts, Owens had knocked on the door of the woman living next to her on Friday to get an iPad back that her children had left behind, when she was shot from the other side. She was with her nine-year-old son when the incident happened, according to the family.
Owens was taken to the hospital where she was later pronounced dead, police said.
Authorities received a call for trespassing, and when they arrived, they saw a woman with a gunshot wound, said Marion County sheriff Billy Woods in a news conference on Monday.
No arrest has been made so far in the case, according to Ben Crump, one of the attorneys representing the family, who called the killing “appalling”.
“It is asinine when they try to justify this unjustifiable killing of this mother of four who was killed in front of her children,” Mr Crump told MSNBC on Monday. “It is heartbreaking on every level.”
Mr Woods said his office was working to determine what role the state’s “stand your ground” laws might play in the shooting. The Florida law allows people to use lethal force if they believe their or someone else’s life is 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,” he said in the Monday briefing.
“And what we have to rule out is whether this deadly force was justified or not before we can even make the arrest.”
He said there was an ongoing “neighbourhood feud” between the two families and police had received about a half dozen calls since January 2021.
In a news conference held by Owens’s family attorneys on Monday, the victim’s mother said the neighbour accused of shooting her daughter had called the family, including the children, racial slurs.
The neighbour’s door “never opened” when Owens tried to confront her, and she was shot through the door, said Pamela Dias, the victim’s mother.
“My daughter, my grandchildren’s mother, was shot and killed with her nine-year-old son standing next to her. She had no weapon, she posed no imminent threat to anyone,” Ms Dias said.
“What I’m asking is for justice,” she said. “Justice for my daughter.”
A GoFundMe page set up by the family for Owens’s funeral expenses and education of children has raised a little more than $42,000 out of the $25,000 target so far.
According to the family, Owens’s children were playing in a field next to an Ocala apartment complex when the 58-year-old white woman allegedly began yelling at them and calling them racial slurs.
The children left, but “accidentally left an iPad behind, which the woman took”, said the GoFundMe page. When one of the children went to her residence to retrieve it, the woman allegedly threw it, hitting the boy and cracking the screen.
After Owens’s children informed her of what happened, she walked across the street with her kids to speak to the woman. She knocked on the door, and at that point, she was shot through the door.