Sheriff says Florida mom fatally shot by neighbor after argument over children at play


OCALA, Fla. (AP) — A Florida mother was fatally shot through the front door of her neighbor’s home while her 9-year-old son stood beside her. This was the violent culmination of a two-and-a-half year feud, police said.

Ajike Owens, 35, was fatally shot after walking into the Ocala apartment of her neighbor, who said she had previously yelled at Owens’ children as they played nearby and threw a pair of skates, which hit one of them Marion County Sheriff Billy Woods at a meeting press conference on Monday.

Officers responding to a burglary call at the home Friday night found Owens suffered from gunshot wounds. The mother of four was taken to a nearby hospital, where she died. Ocala is approximately 70 miles (110 kilometers) northwest of Orlando.

“I wish our shooter had called us instead of taking action into her own hands,” Woods said. “I wish Ms Owens had called us hoping we had never gotten to the point where we are today.”

Since January 2021, Woods said officers have responded at least half a dozen times related to the feud between Owens and the woman who shot her. The sheriff’s office has not arrested or identified the shooter.

Woods said investigators were working with prosecutors and needed to investigate potential self-defense claims before pursuing potential criminal charges.

The sheriff pointed out that under Florida’s Stand Your Ground law, he could not lawfully make an arrest unless he could prove that the shooter did not act in self-defense.

Before the shooting, Owens’ children had been playing in a field near the shooter’s home. When Owens later confronted the woman at her apartment, police said there was an argument in which the woman shot Owens through the front door.

Civil rights attorney Benjamin Crump, representing Owens’ family, said in a statement that the shooter racially abused the children before confronting their mother. Owens and her children are black.

The sheriff’s office has not confirmed that any insults were expressed, nor has it said if race was a factor in the shooting.

Woods also said they didn’t interview the Owens children who witnessed the shooting because investigators initially wanted to have child therapists work with them. Most of the information available to officers comes from the shooter, Woods said.

“There was a lot of aggression from both of them, back and forth,” Wood said, the shooter telling investigators. “Whether it’s knocking on doors, knocking on walls, or making threats. And then, at that moment, Mrs Owens was shot through the door.”

Joining Woods at his press conference were community leaders and a local attorney hired by the family, Anthony Thomas. Her unique message was a call for patience while the sheriff’s office conducted its investigation.

During a vigil with the family later Monday, Thomas said the sheriff had promised him the most professional service he and his deputies could provide and Thomas planned on keeping the agency up to date.

During the same gathering, Owens’ mother, Pamela Dias, said she was seeking justice for her daughter and grandchildren.

“My daughter, the mother of my grandchildren, was shot while her nine-year-old son was standing next to her,” Dias said. “She didn’t have a gun. She posed no immediate danger to anyone.”

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