October 4, 2023

White woman who fatally shot black neighbor has been arrested in Florida

OCALA, Fla. (AP) — A Florida woman accused of fatally shooting her neighbor last week in the violent culmination of what the sheriff described as a 2½-year feud was arrested Tuesday, the Marion County Sheriff’s Office said.

Susan Louise Lorincz, 58, who is white, was arrested on charges of manslaughter with a gun, culpable negligence, battery and two counts of assault in the death of Ajike Owens, a black mother of four, Sheriff Billy Woods said in a statement .

Authorities came under pressure on Tuesday to arrest and charge the white woman who shot through her front door and killed a black neighbor in a case that has put Florida’s divisive state back in the spotlight.

Woods said this was not a position, but “just a murder.”

During an interview, Lorincz claimed she acted in self-defense and that Owens had tried to break down her door before firing her firearm. Lorincz also claimed that Owens had come after her in the past and attacked her before. Their investigation — including obtaining eyewitness testimony — allowed detectives to determine that Lorincz’s actions were not justified under Florida law, according to a statement from the sheriff’s office.

About three dozen mostly black protesters gathered outside the Marion County Judicial Center to demand the gunman be arrested in the nation’s latest hot spot on race and gun violence. The lead prosecutor, Attorney William Gladson, met with the protesters and urged patience as the investigation continues.

“If we want to make a case, we need as much time and evidence as possible,” Gladson said. “I don’t want to jeopardize any criminal investigation and I’m not going to.”

Owens, 35, was killed in the Friday night shooting, Woods said. The women lived in the rolling hills south of Ocala, a North Florida town at the heart of the state’s horse country.

Woods had said on Monday that detectives were cooperating with the prosecution and must investigate possible self-defense claims before moving forward with any criminal charges. The sheriff pointed out that because of the state of your ground law, he cannot legally make an arrest unless he can prove that the shooter was not acting in self-defense.

On Tuesday, a stuffed teddy bear and bouquets marked the area near where Owens was shot. Nearby, children rode bicycles and scooters and played basketball. Protesters chanted “No justice, no peace” and “AJAJAJ” with Owens’ nickname. They carried signs that read, “Say her name Ajike Owens” and “It’s about us.”

Outside, Rev. Bernard Tuggerson said the black community in Ocala has been wronged for years. “Marion County is suffering and needs to be completely healed,” he said. “If we don’t turn away from our depraved ways of the world, it will become an ongoing problem. We want answers.”

The sheriff said Owens was shot just after going to the apartment of Lorincz, who had yelled at Owens’ children as they played in a nearby lot. He also said that Lorincz threw a pair of skates and hit one of the children.

Deputies responding to a call for trespassing at the apartment Friday night found Owens suffering from gunshot wounds. She later died in a hospital.

Before the confrontation, Lorincz had yelled racial slurs at the children, according to a statement from civil rights attorney Ben Crump, who represents Owens’ family. He also represented Trayvon Martin’s family in 2012, when the black teen was murdered in a case that brought global attention to the state’s stand your ground law.

The sheriff’s office has not confirmed that any insults were made or said whether race was a factor in the shooting.

Lauren Smith, 40, lives across the street from where the shooting took place. She was on her porch that day and saw one of Owens’ young sons pacing and screaming, “They shot my mom, they shot my mom.”

She ran to the house and began chest compressions until rescue crews arrived. She said there was no altercation and that Owens had no gun.

“She was angry all the time that the kids were playing there,” Smith said. “She would say nasty things to them. Just mean.” Smith, who is white, described the neighborhood as family-friendly.

The sheriff said deputies have answered at least half a dozen calls since January 2021 in connection with what police described as an altercation between Owens and Lorincz.

“There was a lot of aggressiveness from both of them, back and forth,” the sheriff told investigators. “Whether it’s banging on the doors, banging on the walls and threats. And that’s when Mrs. Owens was shot through the door.

“I am absolutely heartbroken,” Angela Ferrell-Zabala, executive director of Moms Demand Action for Gun Sense in America, told The Associated Press. She described the fatal shooting as “so senseless.”

“We’ve seen this time and time again in this country,” she said, adding that “it’s really because of lax gun laws and a shoot-first culture.”

Ferrell-Zabala said stand your ground cases, which she refers to as “shoot first laws,” are five times more likely to be deemed justified when a white shooter kills a black victim.

In 2017, Florida lawmakers updated the state’s self-defense statute to shift the burden of proof from a person claiming self-defense to prosecutors. That means authorities must rule out self-defense before filing charges. Before the law change, prosecutors could charge someone with a shooting, then defense attorneys had to affirmatively defend why their client should not be convicted.

Hold your ground and cases of the “castle doctrine” — which allow residents to defend themselves by law or judicial precedent when threatened — have sparked outrage amid a spate of shootings across the country.

In April, 84-year-old Andrew Lester, a white man, shot and wounded 16-year-old Ralph Yarl, a black teenager who knocked on his door in Kansas City after accidentally showing up at the wrong house to pick up his younger siblings. to get. . Lester faces charges of first-degree assault and armed criminal action; at trial, he may claim that he thought someone was trying to break into his home, as he told police.

Missouri and Florida are among the 30 or so states that have your basic laws.

The most famous examples of the stand your ground argument emerged in the trial of George Zimmerman, who fatally shot Trayvon Martin.

Zimmerman, who had a white father and a Hispanic mother, told police that Martin assaulted him and forced him to use his gun in self-defense. He was allowed to go free, but was arrested about six weeks later after Martin’s parents questioned his version of events and then-Gov. Rick Scott has appointed a special prosecutor.

Prior to the trial, Zimmerman’s attorneys chose not to file a stand your ground claim, which could have resulted in the denial of murder amendments and immunity from prosecution. But at trial, the law was essentially used as part of his self-defense argument. Jurors found him not guilty.

During a vigil on Monday, Owens’ mother, Pamela Dias, said she was seeking justice for her daughter and her grandchildren.

“My daughter, the mother of my grandchildren, was shot dead with her 9-year-old son standing next to her,” Dias said. “She didn’t have a gun. She was not an immediate threat to anyone.”


Frisaro in Fort Lauderdale contributed to this report.

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