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White Woman Who Fatally Shot Black Neighbor After Altercation Over Kids Playing Charged with Manslaughter
The family of Ajike “AJ” Owens, who was fatally shot by neighbor Susan Lorincz, believes that “if the roles were reversed that A.J. would have been charged with murder," civil rights attorney Ben Crump said.
Prosecutors in Florida have decided not to file murder charges against a white woman accused of fatally shooting her Black neighbor due to “insufficient evidence.”
Lorincz is accused of fatally shooting Ajike “AJ” Owens, a 35-year-old mother-of-four, on June 2. Lorincz allegedly opened fire from behind her front door on her neighbor, who went to confront Lorincz about an altercation she had with Owens’ children.
Civil rights attorney Ben Crump previously said in a statement to NBC News that Owens' children were playing outside an Ocala apartment complex when Lorincz “began yelling at them to get off her land and calling them racial slurs.”
Lorincz told authorities that the shooting was in self-defense, which initially delayed officials from arresting her based on Florida’s “stand your ground” laws, according to the Ocala Star-Banner.
“In making the filing decision on this case, my office carefully examined the viability of both second degree murder and manslaughter with a firearm, both first degree felonies,” State Attorney William Gladson said in a news release. “In order to prove the crime of second degree murder, the State must prove beyond and to the exclusion of every reasonable doubt, the existence of a depraved mind toward the victim at the time of the killing.
"Depraved mind requires evidence of hatred, spite, ill will or evil intent toward the victim at the time of the killing," Gladson's announcement continued. "As deplorable as the defendant’s actions were in this case, there is insufficient evidence to prove this specific and required element of second degree murder.”
Gladson further stated that the facts in the case — “aiming a firearm at the door, and pulling the trigger” — were not sufficient enough to legally prove Lorincz was acting with a “depraved mind” when shooting Owens.
“Case law has consistently held that extreme recklessness or impulsive overreactions are, in and of themselves, insufficient to prove second degree murder,” Gladson stated.
The office also declined to file charges against Lorincz of one count each of misdemeanor assault, misdemeanor culpable negligence and misdemeanor battery.
"Sworn testimony provided by the victim’s son after the arrest, indicated that the skate thrown by the defendant did not strike the child, a necessary element of the charge of battery," the office stated. "Sworn testimony was also provided by another child, as it relates to one of the accounts of assault, that he was not in fear which is a required element of assault."
Gladson concluded that since legal requirements to establish battery and assault couldn't be met, his office couldn't file the charges. As for misdemeanor culpable negligence, a charge was not filed because there wasn't evidence that Lorincz knew the child was with his mom when the defendant shot Owens, the office stated.
The shooting led to public outcry and protests, calling for Lorincz’s arrest before she had been taken into custody.
Following the announcement that Lorincz would not be charged with murder, Crump said that the case is an example of unequal justice, according to the Orlando Sentinel. The family believes, Crump said, that “if the roles were reversed that A.J. would have been charged with murder, and it’s as simple as that.”
Gladson said he is aware of the family and community’s desire for a second-degree murder charge against Lorincz, but added that his “obligation as State Attorney is to follow the law in each case that I prosecute.”
He said the decision to not file the murder charge was “thoughtful” and made “without consideration of any factors other than the specific facts of this terrible crime.”
“Understandably, emotions run high, particularly with senseless, violent crimes," Gladson added. "However, I cannot allow any decision to be influenced by public sentiment, angry phone calls or further threats of violence, as I have received in this case."
If found guilty on the charge of first-degree manslaughter with a firearm, Lorincz will face up to 30 years in prison.