Florida officials are declining to file murder charges against a white woman who shot and killed her Black neighbor through her locked front door in front of the woman’s young children earlier this month, citing “insufficient evidence,” state attorney Bill Gladson announced in a Monday press release. The white woman, Susan Louise Lorincz, will still face charges for one count of manslaughter with a firearm and one count of assault for killing Ajike Owens, Gladson’s office says.
“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,” the press release states. “While some may not agree with that decision, I can assure you that the decision was thoughtful and made without consideration of any factors other than the specific facts of this terrible crime.”
The state attorney’s office says they would have to prove that Lorincz has a “depraved mind” in order to charge her with murder, which “requires evidence of hatred, spite, ill will or evil intent toward the victim at the time of the killing.” Gladson’s office says they lack evidence of this, even as Lorincz admitted to repeatedly harassing Owens’ children with racial slurs in an arrest affidavit obtained by CNN earlier this month. Owens’ family’s attorneys have alleged Lorincz called the kids the N-word and “slaves.”
“We are deeply disappointed by this decision,” Anthony Thomas, an attorney to Owens’ family, said in a statement shared with Jezebel. “All the evidence unequivocally supports the elevation of this charge to second-degree murder. We firmly believe that justice demands nothing less. The failure of the prosecutor to charge [Lorincz] with what truly reflected her wanton, reckless behavior undermines our ability to even get real accountability.”
Pamela Dias, AJ Owens’ mother, said in a statement that her family is “devastated” by Gladson’s decision to not charge Lorincz with murder. “How do I explain to AJ’s children, my young grandbabies, that the loss of their mother’s life is still not being taken seriously? Only a living breathing AJ would be true justice, and today’s charge could not be further from that.”
This news comes after the Marion County sheriff’s office faced significant backlash over a days-long delay in Lorincz being arrested, as the state investigated whether Lorincz had acted within the bounds of Florida’s Stand Your Ground law. Stand Your Ground laws legally permit citizens to defend themselves with deadly force if they fear they’re in imminent danger. But on June 2, Lorincz shot Owens while she was unarmed and in the presence of her young children, with a locked door separating the two.
According to lawyers for Owens’ family, the conflict that led to Owens’ death began when her kids were playing in a field near their apartment complex. Lorincz “began yelling at [the kids] to get off her land and calling them racial slurs.” The children fled the field and accidentally left behind an iPad, which Lorincz collected. When Owens’ kids went to Lorincz’s home to retrieve it, Owens’ family lawyers say that Lorincz threw it, hitting one of the children. Owens then came to Lorincz’s home to confront her. Lorincz then shot and killed Owens through the door.
The Marion County sheriff’s office offered a similar version of events after completing interviews with witnesses (including the children) earlier this month, leading to Lorincz’s arrest on June 6. In the arrest affidavit where Lorincz recounts using racist slurs against Owens’ kids, she claimed she didn’t intend to shoot Owens and that she only shot her gun because she was afraid for her life.
Speaking in support of Owens’ family shortly before Lorincz’s arrest, Marion County NAACP president Bishop J. David Stockton III criticized the role of racism in Owens’ killing. “The truth is we’ve gotten to a point where Black folks are almost living in a day where we are afraid to go outside,” Stockton said. “Our children and adults deserve to live in a world where they do not live in fear of their neighbors.”