MARION COUNTY, Fla. — Protesters filled the lobby of the Marion County courthouse Tuesday to call for an arrest of the woman who is accused of shooting and killing Ajike Owens.
Owens died during a confrontation Friday that stemmed from a long-running feud between the two.
Neighbors said the shooter, who WFTV is not identifying since she hasn’t been charged, asked Owens’ kids to leave a grass area outside her apartment, even though the landlord permitted kids to play there. They said the shooter then took an iPad left by the kids, and threw a pair of skates at them when they tried to get it back.
Deputies said Owens walked across the street to confront the shooter when the shooter shot and killed her through a closed front door. Deputies said the shooter claimed she feared for her life as Owens banged on doors and windows. Owens’ family said she merely knocked.
Either way, Florida law prevents sheriffs and prosecutors from arresting and charging anyone in a Stand Your Ground case unless they determine the shooting wasn’t justified.
“Be assured that when we do interviews, the facts are brought forward,” Marion County Sheriff Billy Woods said in a press conference Monday. “The puzzle are put together so that we can come to justice, and that’s what we will come to at the conclusion of this.”
Deputies said a team finally interviewed Owens’ kids on Monday. The kids, for now, appear to be the only witnesses to the shooting. Deputies said they haven’t found any video showing the incident.
That matches claims made in reports dating back to other times the shooter called deputies on Owens. In February 2022, the woman asked deputies to respond because Owens was walking her dog on the same grass area, a report said. The woman had placed a “no trespassing” sign on it, claiming it was her property – as she would again do in the minutes leading up to Owens’ death.
The woman claimed Owens threw the sign at her and hit her, leaving a mark on her leg. The report said deputies couldn’t see any marks, and because no evidence was available to support either side’s claim, the deputies took no action.
The other report provided by the sheriff’s office showed the woman calling deputies to accuse Owens of tampering with her mailbox in April.
The protesters said Owens did not pose any threats when she was defending her kids, and the neighbor had no right to shoot her through a locked door.
“She should have been jailed same day,” Nathaniel Tuggerson said.
The protests began at Ocala’s downtown square Tuesday afternoon before traveling to the courthouse around the corner. After standing in the lobby and asking the sheriff to come out -- the sheriff does not work in that building -- some of the protesters walked to the state attorney’s office and called for his attention.
Police said two people were arrested during the protest.
The protesters said Bill Gladson came out to speak to them.
“He was like, saying that he couldn’t pretty much put too much information out,” Patrick Woolbright relayed. “He’s there developing evidence to be able to move forward, but we’re not going to pressure him to you know, do anything right now.”
Attorney Eben Self, who has experience with Stand Your Ground cases, said it was good the sheriff and Gladson were choosing to take their time.
“If you rushed to this judgment, we would jump down the sheriff’s throat,” he said. “We’d criticize that at every move in the proceeding.”
Self said a decision could take days or weeks, and would come down to whether a reasonable person would believe their life was in danger in the moments leading to Owens’ death, as the law requires.
There was also the issue of her throwing the items at the kids, he said, which in itself was a crime – and could put her defense in jeopardy. However, he said people are quicker to feel threatened in their own homes, especially in today’s times.
“People have these fears that the world is coming to get them, and I think that’s a very common belief in our society,” he said.
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