Scripps News spoke Wednesday with Anthony D. Thomas, the attorney for the family of Ajike Owens, the Florida mother who was shot and killed by her neighbor last week.
Authorities say 58-year-old Susan Lawrence was taken into custody Tuesday for the June 2 shooting of Owens.
Police say the confrontation stemmed from a years-long feud between the two women. Lawrence told police she shot in self-defense after Owens, a mother of four, tried to break down her door.
Police defended the delay in arresting Lawrence. Florida’s “stand your ground” law holds that police cannot arrest someone for a shooting unless they can prove that the shooter did not act in self-defense. Florida Sheriff Billy Woods said they made the arrest after an investigation showed Lawrence’s actions were unjustifiable under the law.
But Thomas told Scripps News that in the meantime, Owens’ family was left in the dark.
“A mother was unjustifiably killed in front of her children, and the sheriff’s department allowed [Lawrence] initially to use the fact that she claimed that she was in fear of her life, when all the evidence was there to prove or to provide the sheriffs with probable cause to make an arrest,” Thomas said.
“[Sheriff Woods] told me when I had my conversation with him that he needed more witnesses, and certainly we wanted to give him time to do so. But it had not been in a timely manner. The family members wanted answers.”
“This incident, shooting, killing — happened Friday night. And from Friday night to Monday morning, the family had no answers,” Thomas said. “There was no one calling, there was no detective. As a matter of fact, the mother of Ajike Owens had tried to reach out to law enforcement and she was told to call back during business hours.”
Police say Lawrence is charged with manslaughter with a firearm, culpable negligence, battery and two counts of assault.
Thomas says he and the rest of the Owens’ legal team will “seek the opportunity to make sure the state’s attorney does his job and prosecutes Susan at the highest extent of the law.”