The family of Ajike “AJ” Owens, the Black mother who was fatally shot by her white neighbor, wants the U.S. Department of Justice to investigate the case as a hate crime. According to ABC News, the family also requested Florida Attorney General Ashley Moody to review the shooting, which happened on June 2 in Ocala, Florida.
Susan Lorincz, 58, opened fire through her front door, killing Owens in front of her 9-year-old son. According to authorities, Owens confronted Lorincz for allegedly attacking two of her children, calling them racial slurs, and taking one of her kid’s tablet left behind in a field.
The 58-year-old woman was arrested on June 6 and faces a slew of charges, including first-degree manslaughter, in Owens’ killing. She plead not guilty to the charges on July 10.
The Black mother’s family remains shocked that prosecutors didn’t charge her with murder.
“It’s just awful, it’s a senseless murder. These children should never have to have gone through this,” Anthony Thomas, who’s representing the Owens family, told Good Morning America on Saturday (July 29). “We feel as though a higher charge should have been brought other than manslaughter.”
Florida State Attorney William “Bill” Gladson claims there was “insufficient evidence” to bring forward 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 in a June 26 statement.
Lorincz told investigators she was acting in self-defense, but detectives rebuked her claims and deemed her actions unjustifiable under Florida’s stand-your-ground laws, according to the Marion County Sheriff’s Office. Under those laws, anyone can use force if they feel their life is in danger.
The 58-year-old woman remains in custody on a $150,000 bond. According to court records, her pre-trial hearing will take place on November 2. Jury selection is expected to begin on November 13.