One of the children of Ajike “AJ” Owens, the Black woman who authorities say was fatally shot last week in central Florida after knocking on a neighbor’s door, is consumed with guilt over his mother’s death.
The 9-year-old boy, who witnessed the shooting, blames himself because he first told his mom the neighbor had confronted him and his siblings.
“In his soul, in his heart, it’s his fault that his older brother, his baby sister and his baby brother, as well as himself, will never see their mother again,” Owens’ mother, Pamela Dias, told reporters Wednesday.
Dias, who spoke at a news conference a day after a 58-year-old woman was arrested in connection with the death, said another child also blamed himself because he was unable to perform CPR on his mother.
“Grandma, grandma. I couldn’t save her,” Dias recalled the 12-year-old boy telling her.
Susan Louise Lorincz was arrested on charges of manslaughter with a firearm, culpable negligence, battery and two counts of assault, the Marion County Sheriff’s Office said early Wednesday.
Lorincz, who is White, was taken into custody Tuesday night, the sheriff’s office said. It was not immediately clear whether she has an attorney.
Her first court appearance is expected on Thursday, according to the sheriff’s office. Lorincz is “undergoing testing to be medically cleared” before being held in a cell at the Marion County Jail. She will not be present in court but will appear via video call, the sheriff’s office said.
Ben Crump, an attorney representing Owens’ family, and Dias said they were grateful for the arrest but questioned why it took days to happen.
“We don’t take that lightly. We don’t take it for granted, because Black people, and swift justice, in America, is not something that happens all the time,” Crump said at the news conference with members of Owens’ family.
“If the roles were reversed, and you have a Black woman shoot a White woman through a locked metal door, nobody would be saying, ‘It’s a difficult case. It is a simple case.’ The only question is, are we going give AJ the same respect, the same dignity?” Crump added.
Dias asked, “When is it OK, in America, to shoot someone (from) behind the locked door? When is that okay?”
The Rev. Al Sharpton will deliver the eulogy at a service for Owens on Monday.
Authorities say Owens was shot through the door of her neighbor’s home near Ocala, Florida, on Friday. Owens’ family and attorneys had demanded that her killer be arrested and charged. Her family has also accused Lorincz of yelling at Owens’ children and calling them racial slurs prior to the shooting.
When interviewed, Lorincz claimed that she acted in self defense and that Owens had been trying to break down her door prior to her discharging her firearm, according to a news release the sheriff’s office. Lorincz also said Owens had come after her in the past and had previously attacked her, the release said.
“Through their investigation – including obtaining the statements of eyewitnesses who only came forward as late as yesterday – detectives were able to establish that Lorincz’s actions were not justifiable under Florida law,” the sheriff’s office said.
Prosecutors had been working with investigators in Marion County to determine whether they will file charges in the case, Fifth Judicial Chief Assistant State Attorney Walter Forgie said Tuesday.
Marion County Sheriff Billy Woods said Monday that investigators had to consider Florida’s “stand your ground” law before making an arrest. The statute allows people to respond with deadly force if they reasonably believe they are being threatened with death or serious injury, and says they don’t have to retreat if they’re “not engaged in a criminal activity and … in a place where he or she has a right to be.”
Woods emphasized Monday that authorities had largely only heard the perspective of the shooter, who has not been publicly named, and were still working to interview Owens’ children, who witnessed the killing.
Investigators have determined Owens knocked on Lorincz’s door to confront her after the she threw a pair of skates at her children, hitting at least one of them, according to Woods.
Owens’ family has insisted that her killing was unjustified.
“My daughter, my grandchildren’s mother, was shot and killed with her 9-year-old son standing next to her,” Dias said Monday. “She had no weapon, she posed no imminent threat to anyone.”
Witness described dispute before shooting
One witness told a sheriff’s deputy that children were playing in a nearby field before the shooting and a dispute ensued as the neighbor picked up an electronic tablet that one of the children left on the ground, according to an incident report.
The shooter “engaged” with Owens’ children and threw a pair of skates at them, hitting at least one, according to Woods.
One of Owens’ children then went home and told the mother what had happened, prompting Owens to walk over to the neighbor’s house and knock on the door, Woods said.
As Owens confronted the neighbor, Owens was shot through the door, the sheriff said. When deputies responded to the scene Friday night after receiving a trespassing call, they found Owens laying in the grass with a gunshot wound, the incident report said.
The mother was then brought to a hospital, where she was pronounced dead, authorities have said.
Family demands justice for single mother of four
Owens’ family and attorneys gathered at a news conference Monday to demand justice for her, saying that her killing was unwarranted and unprovoked.
In an interview with MSNBC on Monday, Owens’ mother said Owens acted “as any parent would do.”
“She simply knocked on the door, was unarmed, no weapons. She just wanted answers. She wanted to speak to another adult regarding the incident with her 9-year-old son,” Dias told MSNBC.
A single mother of four, Owens has been remembered by her loved ones as a dedicated caretaker of her family and an infectiously positive person.
“She had a smile that would light up the room,” reads a verified GoFundMe page started by her family. “But most of all, she was known for how much she loved and absolutely lived for her four children.”
“There wasn’t anything that she wouldn’t do for those near and dear to her heart. She often would give to other single mothers that were in similar situations that she’d been in,” the fundraiser page said.
CNN’s Elizabeth Wolfe, Christina Maxouris, Carlos Suarez and Jamiel Lynch contributed to this report.