Mother shot, killed in Ocala ‘neighborhood feud’ over children, sheriff says

Shots fired in 1600 block of SW 108th Lane in Ocala

MARION COUNTY, Fla. – A woman was shot and killed in Ocala on Friday through the front door of her neighbor’s home during a “neighborhood feud,” according to the Marion County Sheriff’s Office.

Marion County Sheriff Billy Woods said the woman, identified as Ajike Owens, 35, was found shot in the 1600 block of SW 108th Lane in Ocala. Owens was fatally shot after going to the Ocala apartment of her neighbor, who earlier had yelled at Owens’ children as they played nearby and threw a pair of skates that hit one of them, the sheriff said.

Woods said there had been a “neighborhood feud over time” with Owens and the shooter, who has not been identified, about Owens’ children. The sheriff said calls out to the area for disputes between the two date back to January 2021.

“I’ve got reports that these things have, they’ve called one side or the other — either the mother, (Owens), has called or the shooter has called — complaining about the children. Now, it’s children being children... Here’s what I wish. I wish our shooter would have called us instead of taking action into her own hands,” he said.

Woods said deputies have responded at least a half-dozen times since January 2021 regarding the dispute between Owens and the woman who eventually shot her.

The sheriff’s office hasn’t arrested or identified the shooter. Woods said detectives are working with the State Attorney’s Office, and they must investigate possible self-defense claims before they can move forward with any criminal charges.

“So whatever occurred there and the actions in which the shooter did with the children, we’re still trying to figure it out. And at that point is when she went back into her home. At some point, I believe it was the oldest son that had went back and told the mother, somehow the message got back to Ms. Owens, Ms. Owens came to the house to confront the lady,” Woods said, reiterating it’s one side of the story. “... According to the one side, there was a lot of aggressiveness from both of them.”

The sheriff said an investigation is ongoing. An arrest has not been made, but deputies have been in contact with the shooter.

“Most states don’t have the Stand Your Ground law. And what a lot of people don’t understand is that law has specific instructions for us in law enforcement. And anytime that we think or perceive or believe that that may come into play, we cannot make an arrest,” he said. “The law specifically says that. And what we have to rule out is whether this deadly force was justified or not before we can even make the arrest.”

Woods said the state attorney’s office has been contacted.

Anthony D. Thomas, an attorney with Ben Crump Law, held a news conference on Monday afternoon with Owens’ children, mother and community leaders demanding justice for the shooting.

“We need justice for these children. We’re quiet now, but we’re not docile. And so we want to make sure Sheriff Woods understands that we mean business,” Thomas said.

“My baby was so full of life. She was a single mother of four,” Owens’ mother Pamela Dias said. “She loved them with all her being. To know her is to know that her kids were everything. On Friday, June 2, 2023 at approximately 9 p.m., she was rendered voiceless.”

A GoFundMe was set up for Owens’ children and her funeral expenses following the shooting. As of Monday night, it had reached over $32,000 — well surpassing its original $25,000 goal.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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About the Authors:

Brenda Argueta is a digital journalist who joined in March 2021. She graduated from UCF and returned to Central Florida after working in Colorado.

Jacob joined in 2022. He spent 19 years at the Orlando Sentinel, mostly as a photojournalist and video journalist, before joining Spectrum News 13 as a web editor and digital journalist in 2021.