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A Florida woman was shot through a door by her neighbor, drawing calls for an arrest


In Ocala, Fla., a white woman who killed her Black neighbor has not been arrested, and tensions are growing. The incident happened Friday night. The 58-year-old white woman allegedly threw something at her neighbor's kids. The kids' mother, Ajike Owens, then knocked on her neighbor's door, and the neighbor shot and killed Owens through the door. Officials say they are investigating to see if Florida's Stand Your Ground law applies in this case. Joe Byrnes of member station WMFE in Orlando is covering this story. And, Joe, tell us more about the events authorities say led up to the shooting.

JOE BYRNES, BYLINE: They can't give us a complete picture yet, Ari, but Marion County Sheriff Billy Woods says the shooting was part of a neighborhood feud. We can get a partial picture from initial incident reports and from the sheriff and the family. Owens had three boys and a girl ranging in age from a toddler to a 12-year-old. On Friday, one of Owens' kids left an iPad or some other kind of tablet on the ground, and the neighbor picked it up. The kids told deputies there was a dispute with the neighbor over the tablet, and the neighbor threw a pair of skates at them, hitting one of the boys. So, of course, the mom went over to the neighbor's apartment. Detectives have questioned the neighbor but not the kids yet about what happened at the door. Here's Sheriff Woods.

BILLY WOODS: According to the one side, there was a lot of aggressiveness from both of them back and forth - OK? - whether it be banging on the doors, banging on the walls and threats being made.

BYRNES: An attorney for Owens' family says that is not how it happened, that Owens simply knocked on the door. And when she got no answer, she said, I know you hear me. Owens' 9-year-old son was standing beside her. The sheriff's office says the neighbor fired a bullet through the door, through the solid door. Owens stumbled backwards trying to call 911 and then collapsed on the grass.

SHAPIRO: The local sheriff says he is investigating whether Florida's Stand Your Ground law applies here. What does that involve?

BYRNES: Well, the case is expected to go to the state attorney's office for a decision. Sheriff Woods says they're working hard to complete their investigation. He says he cannot arrest the shooter until Stand Your Ground has been ruled out. Florida's Stand Your Ground law allows the use of deadly force if a person reasonably believes it's necessary to prevent imminent death or great bodily harm. The sheriff says the children will be essential to understanding what really happened.

SHAPIRO: Those kids who you said have not been questioned yet. How is the community responding?

BYRNES: Outrage, grief, distrust. There's talk about the unequal treatment of Black suspects. At an emotional press conference, Owens' mother pleaded for justice, while three of Owens' children stood next to their grandmother. Owens' little daughter wept. The NAACP chapter president, Bishop David Stockton, said this case serves as a reminder that it's just not safe to be Black in America. Here he is.

DAVID STOCKTON: We demand a full and fair, transparent and swift investigation into the death of this mother.

BYRNES: The family's lawyer is working with civil rights attorney Ben Crump and is calling for the neighbor's arrest.

SHAPIRO: And in just a sentence or two, what are you expecting to happen in the next few days?

BYRNES: Well, it'll be a little while, I think, before we get an answer. But on Thursday, there's a vigil in honor of Ajike.

SHAPIRO: That's Joe Burns of member station WMFE in Orlando. Thank you.

(SOUNDBITE OF MUSIC) Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

Joe Byrnes