Hundreds crowded Florida’s Kingdom Revival Church for the “National Day of Righteous Outrage for AJ Owens.” The rally held on July 8 united faith leaders, community organizers and civil rights advocates across the state and beyond in pursuit of justice for Ajike “AJ” Owens.
Ms. Owens, a Black woman, was shot by her neighbor, Susan Lorincz, a White woman (See The Final Call, Vol. 42 No. 36). During her bond hearing, Ms. Lorincz faced five counts. However, Marion County State’s Attorney Bill Gladson officially charged Ms. Lorincz with one count of manslaughter with a firearm and one count of assault.
“Given the facts in this case, aiming a firearm at the door, and pulling the trigger is legally insufficient to prove depraved mind. Case law has consistently held that extreme recklessness or impulsive overreactions are, in and of themselves, insufficient to prove second-degree murder. One count of misdemeanor assault, one count of misdemeanor culpable negligence, and one count of misdemeanor battery were not filed,” State Attorney Gladson explained in a statement.
That charge was disappointing to many.
“If the roles were reversed, nobody can convince anybody that AJ Owens wouldn’t have been charged with murder, murder, murder,” Attorney Ben Crump told the audience.
Ms. Owens was shot on June 2, after walking with her son to 58-year-old Ms. Lorincz’s front door, to confront her after she allegedly took an iPad from one of Ms. Owens’ children and threw roller skates at them.
After Ms. Lorincz was charged, the calls for justice grew louder. Ms. Owens’ attorney, family and community wanted Ms. Lorincz charged with second-degree murder, and vow to keep fighting for “equal justice.”
“Manslaughter is suggesting that it was just a reckless act, that there was no intent there. You have to go back and read the police report. You have to go back and look at the fact that she admitted to the racial attacks against her children,” Mr. Crump said.
The Marion County Sheriff’s Office released body camera video to the media on July 1, from half a dozen visits officers made to Ms. Lorincz’s home in response to her calls from February 2022 to April 2023. Ms. Owens was shot on June 2.
“We received this first piece of footage along with the general public after the media released it. Despite receiving this material second-hand, evidence of any body cam footage is evidence of the fact that law enforcement maintained a record of complaints between Susan Lorincz and AJ,” explained the Owens family attorney Anthony Thomas.
“I want the community to understand why this footage is so important for AJ’s legal case. Second-degree murder is committed by a person who knows the victim and has had time to develop a level of enmity toward the victim.”
The body cam footage shows Ms. Lorincz admitting to prior “unfriendly” events between her and Ms. Owens as well as using racial slurs with her children. She also admits to buying a firearm in anticipation of an altercation with Ms. Owens, as detailed in the official arrest affidavit.
“This evidence of the body camera footage is concrete evidence that Susan knew AJ Owens and had time to develop a level of enmity or depraved mind toward AJ prior to killing her,” explained Mr. Thomas. “We must be clear about the facts which have been provided for us. Susan Lorincz was a ticking time bomb. She acted with a depraved mind when she made the decision to kill AJ instead of calling law enforcement, as had been done many times before.”
AJ’s death left four children without their mother. Their grandmother, Pam Dias, lived out of state and had an empty nest. In the twinkling of an eye, this flight attendant has to care for her grandchildren, ages three, seven, nine and 12.
“When I’m alone with my thoughts, I’m really trying to grasp and process what’s happened. What’s going to happen next? What will our futures look like? How am I going to care for these four children, mentally, emotionally, spiritually, physically, and financially? That’s when I grieve. I do a lot of thinking and praying,” Ms. Dias told The Final Call.
Ms. Dias had to quit her airline job and her empty nest became a nest full. “I was grandmother. Right now, I’m their primary caretaker,” Ms. Dias said. “ I used to be gone for several days at a time, or I would often have to fly at a drop of a dime. I opted to let that go in order to care for my grandchildren. Their well-being is what’s important to me. Not only did I let that career go, I’ve also relocated. I was residing in the Atlanta metro area, and I’ve moved to Ocala so they can have a sense of normalcy amongst friends and family.”
Ms. Dias vows to continue fighting for justice while they await a trial date. Ms. Lorincz is currently being held on bond.