Instead of looking forward to the summer and fun activities, the family of a young, Black mother instead laid her to rest at a funeral and homegoing service at Meadowbrook Church in Ocala, Florida, on June 12. Heartbreak, tragedy, and anger are again shrouding the “Sunshine State”
after the shooting death of 35-year-old Ajike “AJ” Owens, a mother of four from Ocala, after confronting a White female neighbor for making racist slurs and threats against her young children as they played outdoors June 2. Reverend Al Sharpton delivered the eulogy.
“The world needs to know that we shouldn’t be at a funeral this morning. They want to bury what happened to AJ; we are not going to let you bury her. We are not going to be quiet about it!” Rev. Sharpton said during his remarks. He told Ms. Owens’s children to remember that their mother stood up for them. “I want you to be everything that she wanted you to be,” Rev. Sharpton said. “When they shot at AJ, they were shooting at all our mothers, and we can’t let that go.”
During the service, civil rights attorney Benjamin Crump said that Ms. Owens’ death is one of many Black deaths that should not be forgotten. He mentioned Trayvon Martin, Breonna Taylor and Botham Jean to name a few. “Justice for AJ!” he said to the audience.
Pamela Dias, the mother of Ms. Owens, stood before the church and said, “We were mere guardians placed over her life. But ultimately, she belonged to God. We were truly blessed to love Ajike. … Many have said, ‘Wow, you are so strong. How do you do it?’ It is simply by the grace of God.”
She continued, “My deepest and greatest fear is that they’ll lose their faith and trust in God. My plea to everyone in the sanctuary and across the nation (is), please don’t let our baby girl’s death go in vain. A change must come.” Ms. Owen’s 12-year-old son, Isaac Williams, stood on the podium and thanked his family and supporters. Her other children are Israel Owens, Afrika Williams and Titus Owens.
Susan Louise Lorincz, 58, the alleged shooter of Ms. Owens was arrested four days after the June 2 incident after investigators said the “Stand-Your-Ground Law” did not apply because she fired a weapon through her locked front door as the victim repeatedly knocked. According to various reports, since 2021, Ms. Lorincz and Ms. Owens had contacted authorities at least six to eight times, in a series of ongoing disputes.
Although Ms. Lorincz claimed she was acting in self-defense, authorities arrested her on June 6. She is facing manslaughter with a firearm and additional charges of culpable negligence, battery and two counts of assault, according to several media outlets. Ms. Lorincz, who made an initial court appearance via video call June 8, faces a maximum of 30 years behind bars. Her bond was set at $154,000 June 9, but has not been released on bail as of Final Call press time.
Melba Pearson, a criminal law and civil rights attorney, told The Final Call that she has been following the case since it went public and said she agreed that the nature of the shooting does not allow for Florida’s stand-your-ground, and said the manslaughter charge against Lorincz is insufficient.
“First, stand-your-ground does not apply here,” Atty. Pearson said. “The evidence does not show that the victim, AJ Owens, was presenting any level of force, much less deadly force. Also, it is hard for the defendant to claim she was in fear when she was in her home alone—AJ Owens was not trying to break in. The fact she shot through her own front door is critical,” Ms. Pearson said in a written statement to The Final Call. “This should be a first- or second-degree murder charge, not manslaughter, which is basically accidental.”
Insisting that a reasonable person could conclude that the defendant lured Ms. Owens to her home for a confrontation, Atty. Pearson said hurling a racist assault at both the shooting victim and her children are not insignificant.
“The hate aspect is important—by hurling racial slurs, she laid her mindset bare,” Atty. Pearson noted. “She has had the police come to her home multiple times due to her aggressive and racist behavior. It is my hope that a hate crime enhancement would be added to the charges as well,” the former prosecutor said.
Renowned civil rights and personal injury attorney Ben Crump has been retained by the family of AJ Owens.
According to Associated Press, Ms. Lorincz admitted to detectives that she called the children “the n-word.” One child told deputies that the night of the shooting, Lorincz “came out of her house and gave the children the middle finger” and also said this: “Get away from my house, you Black slave,” according to the arrest report, noted AP.
“On Friday, June 2, Owens’ children were playing in a field next to an Ocala apartment complex when an unidentified 58-year-old White woman reportedly began yelling at them to get off her land and calling them racial slurs. The children left but accidentally left an iPad behind, which the woman took,” stated Atty. Crump in a news release.
“When one of the children went to her residence to retrieve it, she threw it, hitting the boy and cracking the screen. After AJ’s children informed her of what happened, she walked across the street with her kids to speak with the woman. She knocked on the door, and at that point, the woman allegedly shot through the door, hitting AJ, who later died from her injuries.”
An Owens’ family legal team member, Attorney Anthony Thomas, said at a news conference on June 7 that one of Ms. Owens’ children witnessed the shooting and reported that the unnamed child said: “My mom knocked on the door and then when Susan didn’t answer, he said that his mom said, ‘I know you can hear me’ and that is when he heard the shot and saw his mother fall,” the family’s attorney said.
The mother of AJ Owens, Ms. Pamela Dias, grandmother of the four children, said she was grateful an arrest was finally made but was equally saddened that it took four days to do so. She also said her grandson has been deeply affected by watching his mother being shot and that the nine-year-old blames himself for not being able to save her life.
“He said, ‘Grandma, my mom’s been shot! I tried to give her CPR,’” Ms. Dias said of the boy’s recollection of his mother’s death on a FOX 35 Orlando newscast. “He went to neighbors, ‘please call 911. Call 911, my mother’s been shot!’” said Ms. Dias.
On a Go Fund Me established by Ms. Dias, she described her daughter as having “a smile that would light up the room” and that she was known for how much she loved and lived for her four children. “To say she loved her children unconditionally is an understatement. She was a single mother whose life centered around her children. She was the Team Mom for her children’s football/cheerleading teams. She excelled professionally as a manager in the Restaurant/Hospitality industry.
She was a devoted Christian who believed in bringing her kids up in a supportive Christian environment. After being a devoted mother, she was a devoted friend that took friendships to heart. 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 Go Fund Me stated.
Although the killing of Ajike AJ Owens by her neighbor took place in Central Florida’s Marion County, Ed Haynes, a former police officer and police training instructor with the Southeast Florida Institute of Criminal Justice—the police academy for Miami-Dade County— told The Final Call that America’s current social and political climate, particularly in Florida, has contributed to a toxic brew of stress and frustration that is now boiling over in nearly every municipality across the country.
“No, I think that it’s not overexaggerated. I think that because of a multiple array of reasons, that everyone is pretty much uptight and living on edge right now because of the uncertainty of the financial situation, in terms of commerce, and also just simply because of some of the climate is very charged when it comes to racism. It’s a very charged environment right now, especially in Florida,” Mr. Haynes explained. “My words of caution are to do your research, do your own research, and make sure that you understand the totality of the situations that we face on a day-to-day basis.”
Ocala is a city situated in Marion County located in the northern region of Florida and about an hour and 20 minutes from Orlando. According to worldpopulationreview.com, the population of Ocala is a little over 65,000 with Whites making up 72.93 percent and Blacks 18.63 percent.
Less than a month before the fatal shooting of AJ Owens, the NAACP issued a formal travel advisory for the state of Florida in response to what the organization called, a “direct response to Governor Ron DeSantis’ aggressive attempts to erase Black history and to restrict diversity, equity, and inclusion programs in Florida schools.” The May 20 advisory charges that the state “has become hostile to Black Americans” under the current governor and state legislator.
However, this latest incident is not the first high-profile case that brought Florida’s controversial stand-your-ground law to national prominence. The most infamous being the 2012 death of Black teenager Trayvon Martin. George Zimmerman, a White Latino, was acquitted of second-degree murder and manslaughter after killing the unarmed young man. His death sparked nationwide protests.
Adding that narrow political interests were responsible for crafting the “stand your ground law” in Florida, Mr. Haynes added that its ambiguity and subjective enforcement is the basis for an interpretation that in many cases leads to tragedy and bloodshed. “The ability to interpret it was left so open-ended that it allowed for what we see today,” he said.
The Eternal Leader of the Nation of Islam, the Most Honorable Elijah Muhammad, explained in His 1974 book, “Our Saviour Has Arrived,” that the nature of White America’s fear and hatred toward Black people’s rise from ignominy, demonstrates how such fear and hatred lends to anti-Black racism and malicious acts of violence.
In the competition for dwindling resources and opportunities once reserved for Whites only, Messenger Muhammad described how the descendants of America’s once enslaved Black people are now awakening to demand freedom, justice, and equality, adding friction to an environment already heated from miseducation, injustice, and oppression. “The Holy Qur’an teaches us to ‘fear a day where evil is spreading far and wide,’” He wrote of the hostile climate in which Black people must endure daily.
“The resurrection of the mentally dead Black People brings about the anger of those (White man) who put the Black man to mental death,” Mr. Muhammad wrote on page 200 of His book. “Both people are angry; the Black slave and the slavemaster. The lack of justice to the Black slave is the cause of this anger.”
Student Minister Patrick Muhammad, representative of the Nation of Islam’s 7th Region headquarters, under the leadership of the Honorable Minister Louis Farrakhan, and Muhammad Mosque No. 29 in Miami, told The Final Call that “The Days of Allah (God)” is a time where good and evil cannot coincide and that two objects cannot occupy the same space at the same time.
He shared that Minister Farrakhan told the entire world that God was using the former president, Donald Trump, to peel back the onion of White civility. White people are getting angrier and angrier every day and now naked hatred, not only in word but in deed, is being openly shown to Black people, Minister Farrakhan shared during a May 9, 2017 interview conducted on WVON 1690AM Talk of Chicago radio with host Cliff Kelley.
Student Minister Patrick Muhammad said those actions provided tacit approval for anti-Black racists to move on Black people less subtly if not overtly.
“The mindset we’re dealing with, and we can see that with this White woman, there has been a pattern,” Student Minister Muhammad said. “So, what we’re seeing here with this gun law, the governor here, Mr. DeSantis, there is actually a boiling effect that is taking place among us as a people, and among that mindset among those (disliking) Black people. This is to me what we’re witnessing, a time bomb that is ready to explode further,” he said.
Regarding “the best and only answer” to this conflict of racist violence, and other harms implemented from the highest levels of society, Student Minister Muhammad added that unity and self-improvement among Black and oppressed people are among the keys to escaping the dark days ahead and the chastisement of a grievous day.
“It is a blessing that we are working with a lot of our brothers and sisters in the community, different organizations, pastors, and what we are relating to them is the case for separation. This is just the proof, again, of the Teachings of the Most Honorable Elijah Muhammad, under the divine leadership of the Honorable Minister Louis Farrakhan, and that separation first begins in our mindset from this wicked world,” he said. See Point No. 4 of “What the Muslims Want” on the inside back page of every Final Call Newspaper. Final Call staff contributed to this report.