Family of Black mother fatally shot by neighbor urges DOJ to consider hate crime charges
Ajike "AJ" Owens was fatally shot by Susan Lorincz on June 2 in Ocala, Florida.
The family of Ajike "AJ" Owens, the Black mother of four who was fatally shot through a closed door by her white neighbor on June 2 in Ocala, Florida, is calling on the Florida Attorney General Ashley Moody and the U.S. Department of Justice to review the case and consider whether the shooting was a hate crime.
"It's just awful, it's a senseless murder. These children should never have to have gone through this," Owens family attorney Anthony Thomas told "Good Morning America" on Saturday. "We feel as though a higher charge should have been brought other than manslaughter."
Susan Lorincz was arrested on June 6 and charged with first-degree manslaughter, which is punishable by up to 30 years in prison if she is convicted, according to the Marion County Sheriff's Office. She was also charged with culpable negligence, battery and two counts of assault. She pleaded not guilty on July 10.
The family has been calling for the charges against Lorincz to be upgraded from manslaughter to murder, though authorities have said there is not enough evidence to do so.
Owens' mother, Pamela Dias, who is now taking care of her four grandchildren, told "GMA" the children are traumatized and are asking her how long Lorincz will be in jail.
"Thirty years, that's not sufficient, because this is a lifetime of trauma that these children are going to have to deal with," Dias said, adding that Owens' youngest child is only 3 years old and "the reality of it is that he may never remember his mother."
Lorincz's attorney, Amanda Sizemore, declined to comment. Sizemore previously declined to comment on the charges that her client is facing.
ABC News also reached out to the Florida AG's office and the DOJ but requests for comment weren't immediately returned.
The Marion County Sheriff's office released body camera video of Lorincz's arrest to ABC News on Saturday that shows the moments after Owens was shot and killed through Lorincz's closed front door in front of her 9-year-old son. Video shows first responders racing to save Owens' life as bystanders crowded the scene.
"Show me your hands, show me your hands- where's your gun at?" a sheriff's deputy tells Lorincz.
"Can I just get my water?" Lorincz can be heard asking law enforcement.
"No, no, not right now," a sheriff's deputy replied.
According to a June 6 statement from the Marion County Sheriff's Office, Lorincz shot Owens through a closed door after she went to speak with Lorincz about a dispute over Owens' children playing near Lorincz's home.
Dias told "GMA" that nearly two months after their mother was killed, "reality has truly set in" for Owens' four children and they are dealing with a "lifetime trauma."
"One single person has truly changed our lives – the kids' lives forever. Forever. So it's a lot of grief, a lot of sadness over here," Dias said.
"I see the hurt and the despair in the children's eyes and what they're going through – the restlessness and not being able to sleep. It's heartbreaking because this did not have to happen," she added.
Lorincz was held on a $150,000 bond and remains in custody. Court records show that Lorincz's pretrial hearing is scheduled for Nov. 2, while jury selection in her case is expected to begin on Nov. 13.
Body camera footage released on July 3 by the Marion County Sheriff's Office showed seven incidents between Feb. 25, 2022, and April 25, 2023 in which Lorincz called sheriff's deputies over the past two years to complain about neighborhood children, including Owens' children, playing near her home.
The body camera videos also show a child alleging in comments to sheriff's deputies that Lorincz called the children in the neighborhood "the n-word" and another who accused Lorincz of being "racist."
Lorincz admitted to calling children in the neighborhood the n-word and other derogatory terms in the past, according to a police report.
"I do not have a comment at this time," Lorincz's attorney, Amanda Sizemore, told ABC News on July 3 when asked to comment about the release of the body camera footage and the allegation that Lorincz called the children the "n-word."
According to a June 6 statement from the Marion County Sheriff's office, Lorincz claimed in an interview with law enforcement that she "acted in self-defense. Investigators found that "Lorincz's actions were not justifiable” under Florida’s stand-your-ground law, which gives someone a legal right to use of force if the person deems their life is in danger.
Florida State Attorney William "Bill" Gladson said on June 26 there was insufficient evidence to prove a murder charge in court.
"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 said.
ABC News reached out to Gladson for further comment.