OCALA, FLORIDA — Ajike Owens, a 35-year-old Florida mother, was fatally shot at her neighbor’s doorstep in Ocala amidst a 2½-year dispute, according to Marion County Sheriff Billy Woods. The incident reportedly occurred after the neighbor allegedly yelled at Owens’ children and threw a pair of skates at them. Owens’ 9-year-old son was present at the time of the incident.
Deputies discovered Owens with gunshot wounds while attending to a trespassing call at the neighbor’s apartment. Despite being rushed to a local hospital, Owens, a mother of four, succumbed to her injuries.
Sheriff Woods expressed regret over the escalation of the dispute and wished both parties had sought help from the police to prevent the tragedy. Since early 2021, law enforcement had intervened in at least six incidents involving Owens and the unidentified shooter.
“I wish our shooter would have called us instead of taking actions into her own hands,” Woods said. “I wish Ms. Owens would have called us in the hopes we could have never gotten to the point at which we are here today.”
The shooter, as yet unnamed and uncharged, has claimed possible self-defense. Detectives are collaborating with the State Attorney’s Office to investigate this claim before progressing with any potential criminal charges. Florida’s “stand your ground” law complicates the situation, preventing an arrest unless the shooter’s self-defense claim can be disproven.
“There was a lot of aggressiveness from both of them, back and forth,” Wood said the shooter told police. “Whether it be banging on the doors, banging on the walls and threats being made. And then at that moment is when Ms. Owens was shot through the door.”
Civil rights attorney Benjamin Crump, representing Owens’ family, alleges that the shooter directed racial slurs at the children before the confrontation. Owens and her children are Black. However, the sheriff’s office hasn’t confirmed this claim nor discussed if race played a role in the incident.
We have been retained by the family of Ajike “AJ” Owens. We will continue to stand alongside her relatives and community members as they demand accountability for the deceased mother of four. #AjikeOwens pic.twitter.com/bEcnTYb729
— Ben Crump (@AttorneyCrump) June 5, 2023
Investigations are ongoing, with child therapists to assist in interviewing Owens’ children, who witnessed the incident. Currently, the shooter is the primary source of information, Sheriff Woods stated.
Community leaders, family attorney Anthony Thomas, and the sheriff’s office have all urged patience as the investigation continues. Owens’ mother, Pamela Dias, seeks justice for her daughter and grandchildren, highlighting that Owens was unarmed and posed no immediate threat during the incident.
“My daughter, my grandchildren’s mother, was shot and killed with her 9-year-old son standing next to her,” Dias said. “She had no weapon. She posed no imminent threat to anyone.”
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