Protestors demand justice for Ocala mom who was shot, killed in front of her kids (2024)

Nearly 100 protestors took to the streets Tuesday afternoon to demand justice for an Ocala mother of four who was shot and killed by her neighbor last week over a dispute about where the children were playing.

About half of the group then made way their way into State Attorney Bill Gladson's office building in downtown Ocala while shouting "no justice, no peace" for his failure to charge the suspected shooter. Though the majority of the protest was peaceful, two participants − a man and woman − were arrested by law enforcement for disorderly conduct after repeatedly being warned about blocking traffic along U.S. 441.

Last week, Ajike "AJ" Shantrell Owens, 35, was shot and killed in her Ocala neighborhood by a neighbor. Marion County Sheriff Billy Woods said in a press conference Monday that Owens died at a local area hospital shortly after. He cited Florida's controversial "Stand Your Ground" law as a reason to not formally bring charges against Owen's neighbor at this time.

The case has since grabbed national attention. Famed civil rights attorney Benjamin Crump and Anthony D. Thomas are representing the family.

Protestors yelled "say her name" as they entered the ground floor of the Marion County Judicial Center after passing through the metal detectors. From there, they boarded elevators to the Gladson's office to demand his presence and for the arrest of the suspected shooter.

"This is sad that in 2023 we have to march for equality and justice," one woman yelled inside the building.

Ajike "AJ"Shantrell Owens:Press conferences held Monday for the shooting death of mother of four children

Remembering Owens:Family, friends remember Ocala woman fatally shot last Friday night

Gladson speaks to crowd

Appearing from the front door, Gladson told the protestors that he understood their concerns and has spoken to the Marion County NAACP branch President Bishop J. David Stockton III, as well as the Owens family.

Gladson said their homicide investigators have been working diligently with Marion County Sheriff's Office since the June 2 shooting but doesn't want to be pressured to expedite the case until all the facts are gathered.

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His response didn't seem to please the crowd.

Protestors continued to make their chants as they made their way back down stairs and exited the building. Ocala police officers were spread out around downtown to ensure the protest stayed peaceful.

Frustration and what happened

Since Owens death, residents questioned what they say is a double standard for justice. They argue if roles were reversed, and a Black person had shot a white person, they would have already made an arrest.

While law enforcement hasn't released the name of the shooter, they have stated she is white woman.

The neighbor and Owens family live in the Quail Run neighborhood off County Road 475A in Ocala. The two had approximately half a dozen complaints between them over the past two years.

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Family and neighbors say Owens children, who ranged in age between 3 and 12, were playing in a field when the suspected shooter came outside and yelled at the kids. The woman is accused of using racial slurs and ordering them off the property. At one point, family members say, the neighbor took an iPad and threw a pair of skates at one of the kids.

One of the children went home to tell their mother, Owens, about the incident. She then walked over to the neighbors house and knocked on the door to address the issue. It's unclear if there was yelling or if Owens banged on the door.

Law enforcement says that's when the neighbor shot Owens through her door, striking her in the shoulder. She died at a nearby hospital that day. A candlelight vigil was held for her the day after.

Protestors demand justice for Ocala mom who was shot, killed in front of her kids (4)

Sheriff Woods press conference

Two press conferences were held Monday in response to Owens shooting.

The first was by Sheriff Woods, where he said deputies unsuccessfully performed life-saving measures on Owens.

He has pledged his support, sympathy and prayers to Owens' family and added that the children who witnessed the shooting still needed to be interviewed. He said he didn't want deputies to question the children after such a traumatic event and will rely on professionals for those interviews.

Protestors demand justice for Ocala mom who was shot, killed in front of her kids (5)

He has asked for patience while the investigation continues and that he, too, he wants justice in the case.

Lawyers representing the Owens family said they have met with Woods and was assured that his office is working hard on the case.

At the second press conference held the same day at New St. John Missionary Baptist Church a few hours later, speakers called for a thorough investigation with hope of leading to an arrest.

Family members and friends were at the event. Owens son thanked the audience for showing up and support his mother. A GoFundMe campaign has been created for the Owens family and has raised more than $83,000 as of Tuesday evening.

Words from those protest

At the protest, Alyaa Franks said she didn't know Owens but that her case reminds her of her boyfriend, Blake Porter, who was shot and killed in Georgia in 2020.

Franks said Porter was walking to his apartment when he was shot in the back. To date, no arrest has been made despite law enforcement having a suspect. She said the Owens family deserves justice, too.

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"She had no fear behind a locked door," Franks said.

Lewis Cintron and his girlfriend, Jayde Dean, who worked with Owens at a local McDonald's said they are horrified about the senseless death. The couple said they feel bad for the children.

"I am mostly angry," Dean said. "No one should have to go through that."

Brandi Dennis said there needs "to be an even playing field" and that Woods' press conference appears as if he was trying to ride both sides of the fence.

Dennis said the shooter should've been charged for something, even if for throwing an item at a child.

"You're in your home, what are you afraid of? That was not self-defense," she said.

Contact Austin L. Miller or @almillerosb.

Protestors demand justice for Ocala mom who was shot, killed in front of her kids (2024)
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