AJ Owens
AJ Owens is seen here in an undated picture.

Family and community members are calling for the arrest of a woman accused of shooting her neighbor in Florida in an incident a nationally renowned civil rights attorney described as an “unjustified killing.”

The children of the victim, Ajike “AJ” Owens, were playing in a field near an apartment complex in Ocala when, attorney Ben Crump said, an unidentified white woman, 58, “began yelling at them to get off her land and calling them racial slurs.”

The shooter “engaged” with Owens’ children and threw a pair of skates, hitting the children, the sheriff said.

Following that interaction, one of the children went back inside their home and told their mother, who went to the neighbor’s home “to confront the lady,” the sheriff said.

According to the shooter, there was “a lot of aggressiveness” from both sides, as well as threats being made, and Owens was ultimately shot through the door, said Marion County Sheriff Billy Woods. Owens was later pronounced dead at a hospital.

The woman who fired at Owens has not been arrested. Authorities have not named her, but Crump identified her as a white woman.

In a separate news conference held by Owens’ family attorneys, the victim’s mother said the neighbor who shot her daughter had called the family, including the children, racial slurs.

The neighbor’s door “never opened” when Owens, who was Black, tried to confront her, and she was shot through the door, Pamela Dias, the victim’s mother said.

“My daughter, my grandchildren’s mother, was shot and killed with her 9-year-old son standing next to her. She had no weapon, she posed no imminent threat to anyone,” Dias said.

“What I’m asking is for justice,” she added. “Justice for my daughter.”

‘Stand your ground’ law

Authorities are calling for calm and patience as they investigate the shooting, and worked to recover possible video footage and interview the children who witnessed the incident. The sheriff also asked for anyone with information to come forward.

A police officer drives past the house
A police officer drives past the house Monday, April 17, 2023, where 16-year-old Ralph Yarl was shot Thursday when he went to the wrong house to pick up his younger brothers in Kansas City, Mo. Credit: AP Photo/Charlie Riedel

In two recent cases, homeowners have been charged with shooting people on their property.

While responding to criticism about how long the investigation and a possible arrest is taking, the sheriff referenced the state’s “stand your ground” law. The law allows people to meet “force with force” if they believe they or someone else is in danger of being seriously harmed by an assailant.

“What a lot of people don’t understand is that law has specific instructions for us in law enforcement,” he said. “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.”

“What we have to rule out is whether the deadly force was justified or not before we can even make the arrest,” he said.

Authorities had received reports from the two neighbors dating back to at least January 2021, the sheriff said. Those reports included calls from the shooter complaining about Owens’ children, the sheriff said, adding that it was “children being children,” either being on someone’s property or playing in front of the multiplex.

“Here’s what I wish: I wish our shooter would have called us instead of taking actions into her own hands. I wish Ms. Owens would have called us, in hopes we could have never got to the point in which we are here today,” he said.

“Pray for those children. Pray for each and every one of them,” Woods added. “Their life has changed.”

The sheriff vowed to Owens’ family and friends that his office “is going to do everything to bring justice.”