A Florida mother of four was shot through the front door of her neighbor's home Friday as her 9-year-old son stood next to her, ABC News and other outlets reported.
"I wish our shooter would have called us instead of taking actions into her own hands," Marion County Sheriff Billy Woods said at a press conference Monday addressing the death of 35-year-old Ajike "AJ" Owens of Ocala, Florida.
"I wish Mrs. Owens would've called us in hopes we would've never gotten to the point which we are at today."
The incident reportedly began Friday night when children were playing near the neighbor's home. Woods said the shooter was "engaged" with the children but could not say whether she was "yelling" at them.
A press release from the victim's family's attorneys said the shooter was yelling at the children and calling them racial slurs. The press release also says the children had left an iPad behind. When they went to retrieve it, the woman threw it, hitting one of the kids and cracking the screen.
"Was something thrown at them? Yes. But not directly at them is what we're being told now. It just unfortunately may have hit them," Woods said, emphasizing that interviews are not yet complete.
After the interaction with the children, the shooter went inside her home, the sheriff said. At that point, Owens' son informed her of the interaction with the neighbor, and Owens came to the shooter's home to confront her.
Woods, emphasizing that this information came from "one side" of the story, said there was "a lot of aggressiveness" from both women in the interaction that took place with Owens on one side of the door and the shooter on the other. Woods described "banging on the door" and "threats being made."
Woods said the shooter was "cooperating" with the investigation.
Deputies responding to a trespassing call found Owens suffering from a gunshot wound. Though they immediately rendered aid, Owens passed away, Sheriff Woods said.
"We know that this has basically been a neighborhood feud over time," the sheriff said, explaining that calls about the children had been made to law enforcement multiple times from Ms. Owens and the shooter. The first report he had was from January 2021. He estimated six to eight calls in total.
Sheriff Woods went on to explain that Florida's "stand your ground" law requires law enforcement officers to follow certain instructions. Those instructions disallow making an arrest if the officers believe the law may come into play.
"What we have to rule out is whether deadly force was justified or not before we can even make the arrest. Sometimes it becomes difficult. Sometimes it becomes an obstacle, but only a temporary obstacle," Woods said.
Woods implored the community to pray for the children involved.
The neighbor who allegedly fatally shot Owens has moved out, WOFL reported. The neighbor had reportedly received death threats and someone had broken into her apartment through a window.
Owens' family retained attorneys Ben Crump and Anthony D. Thomas to represent them in the matter, the Ocala StarBanner reported.
Crump and Thomas held a press conference with family members at New St. John Missionary Baptist Church. The family are demanding that the unidentified shooter "be arrested for this unjustified shooting."
Watch a press conference below with the Marion County Sheriff's Office on the shooting death of Ajike "AJ" Owens.
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