OCALA, Fla. — A white woman charged with fatally shooting her Black neighbor through a door has a history of harassing area children and using racial slurs against them, neighbors said Wednesday.
Susan Louise Lorincz, 58, was arrested Tuesday on charges of manslaughter with a firearm, culpable negligence, battery and two counts of assault, the Marion County Sheriff's Office said in a statement. Manslaughter with a firearm is a felony punishable with up to 30 years in prison.
The arrest came a few days after authorities said Lorincz shot Ajike “AJ” Owens, a 35-year-old mother of four, through her front door in Ocala on Friday night. The sheriff's office said Owens had approached Lorincz’s home, knocked on the door multiple times, and demanded that Lorincz come outside to settle a dispute.
At least two of Owens’ children witnessed the shooting, according to the sheriff’s office, which was criticized by civil rights attorney Ben Crump and the grieving family over the pace of the investigation.
It was not immediately clear whether Lorincz, who is being held in the Marion County Jail, had an attorney who could speak on her behalf.
In interviews with NBC News, neighbors recalled the times they said the suspect recorded their children, taunted them with slurs, called the police and waved guns at them — just for being kids.
Hours before the shooting, Franklyn Colon was playing in a field with his son and other children when, he said, Lorincz stuck her middle finger up at him.
Colon, who added Owens was the first person to warn him about Lorincz when he moved to the neighborhood about two years ago, said the suspect started recording and screaming “all kinds of nonsense towards me, towards the kids, towards everyone else.”
'Everybody in this neighborhood has feuded with this lady over our children'
Phyllis Wills, 33, has lived in the neighborhood for about 15 years. She knew Owens and knew of Lorincz "because she used to come outside all the time and harass our kids," she said. "Everybody in this neighborhood has feuded with this lady over our children."
She said Lorincz had a problem with children simply being children.
“Our kids used to play in the field over there all the time. It’s an apartment complex. These are children who, you know, they’re, they’re going to do things. ... Every time they’ve went even in the patch of grass over there, she would be like, ‘Get off of my lawn, you b---- or you retards or you N-word.' She would wave guns at them," Wills said.
Wills continued: "She recorded them every time she’s came outside. She’s gotten into her truck and blasted the radio as loud as she could to agitate the kids. She’s gotten into her truck and laid on the horn for long periods of time to agitate them, as well. She sped out in her truck out here, just crazy things.”
She said she never called the police on Lorincz but has “stood in my yard and yelled at her for the way she talks to the kids. But I’ve never actually had a conversation with her. She wasn’t somebody that you can converse with."
'Mama, Karen called the police on us today'
Sharna Mozell, 36, who has lived in the neighborhood about 12 years, said Lorincz “was a problem with the kids.”
Her 10-year-old daughter would most frequently play outside with other children in the neighborhood.
Lorincz "used to come outside, and she used to record them constantly. And she’ll just flick them off while she’s recording the kids, calling them out their names," said Mozell, the mother of four children ranging in age from 10 to 19.
She added that Lorincz would bully children and was known in the neighborhood as a "Karen," a sarcastic term for a white woman who harasses people of color and has a reputation for racism. Mozell said her youngest daughter told her that Lorincz would record them and then contact authorities for the mere act of playing.
"'Mama, Karen called the police on us today,'" Mozell said her daughter would tell her.
She continued: "But the police never do anything ... because we’re kids, we’re just playing. Like, I don’t understand, like, what was her motive or what was the problem?"
'The lady shot my mom'
Colon was inside in his home around 9 p.m. when he said he heard what sounded like a firecracker. His son told him Owens had been shot and people in the neighborhood, including children, were standing around crying.
According to the sheriff's office, Lorincz had been angry because Owens’ children were playing in the nearby field and “engaged in an argument” with the children.
During the argument, Lorincz threw a skate at Owens’ 10-year-old son and later swung an umbrella at him and his sibling, according to the sheriff’s office. Owens then knocked on Lorincz’s door multiple times, and Lorincz fired one shot through the door, the sheriff’s office said.
Owens was hit in the upper chest and pronounced dead at a hospital, according to the sheriff’s office.
Colon said he performed CPR on her until police and EMS arrived.
“When I saw her and everything, I’m like, ‘Oh crap.’ I started scanning for open wounds. No exit wound, just an upper right chest [wound],” he said.
Colon looked to make sure Lorincz was not around, he said, adding she did not come outside after the shooting.
Wills was preparing dinner when one of Owens' children pounded on her door.
“It was so loud, my windows were shaking," she said. "So I’m like, "What the heck?" And I go and I opened the door and it’s Isaac, her oldest son, and he’s like gasping for air. He can’t even barely talk. And he’s like, 'The lady shot my mom!'"
"When he said that, I already know who he’s talking about, because she’s the only person out here that feuded with the children," Wills added.
‘This world is really, really nasty’
Crump, who is representing the Owens family, and the slain woman's relatives and loved ones have said that Lorincz had used racial slurs against Owens' children prior to the fatal encounter.
One of the children left an iPad behind, which the woman took, he said.
A sheriff’s incident report, which is redacted, mentions that deputies were told at the scene that an iPad was taken by a woman who was at that time described as a suspect.
Deputies had been responding to a call about trespassing that night when they were informed there was a shooting, and they arrived to find Owens lying on the grass not breathing, according to a sheriff’s office incident report.
Lorincz told investigators that she acted in self-defense “and that Owens had been trying to break down her door prior to her discharging her firearm,” the sheriff’s office said in a statement.
In an interview Tuesday, Crump said there could be no justification for the killing.
“No way she should feel that this person knocking on the door would be able to cause death to her or imminent bodily harm,” he said. “And if she did feel fear, call the police. Why shoot through a metal door?”
Mozell's son, Jamerien Wilson, 18, said he witnessed the aftermath of the shooting.
He said that when he went outside, he saw police cars everywhere and then saw Owens on the ground and someone performing CPR. He said he didn’t know at the time what happened and didn’t know Owens had been shot.
Wilson said he didn't know Owens well, but knows her 12-year-old son because they would play basketball together with other neighborhood children.
"She never bothered nobody. She was most definitely always in the house and doing what she had to do for her kids," he said.
"Just another Black soul lost to earth, you know. It’s just not what we need. Bro, this world is really, really nasty," Wilson added.
'The mood has changed'
At a news conference Wednesday afternoon, Crump said he hopes prosecutors consider upgrading Lorincz's charges to murder and also take into account witness statements from neighbors who said their children have been harassed by the suspect.
“We are grateful to Sheriff Woods for making the arrest. We don’t take that lightly, we don’t take it for granted. Because Black people getting swift justice in America is not something that happens all the time,” Crump said.
“Even though we are bothered that it took four days, we understand because ... of laws like stand your ground, it can complicate matters,” the attorney added.
Sheriff Billy Woods previously said that before they made an arrest, investigators were legally required to determine whether Florida’s “stand your ground” law applied.
He said the killing of Owens was not justified under the self-defense law.
“It was simply a killing,” Woods said.
Pamela Dias, Owens’ mother, sat down with MSNBC on Wednesday and spoke at the news conference. Her grandchildren, who range in ages from 3 to 12, have been impacted "in so many ways" since their mother's death, she said. Dias noted Owens' two boys, including a 9-year-old who saw his mother killed, blame themselves for her death.
“In his soul, in his heart, it’s his fault,” she said, explaining how the child told his mother what Lorincz allegedly did prior to the shooting, which prompted the confrontation.
Dias added: “Our 12-year-old blames himself for the death of his mother because he couldn’t save her. He couldn’t give her CPR. His words were, ‘Grandma, grandma, I couldn’t save her.’”
Mozell said the shooting has impacted the neighborhood, too. Ocala is a city of around 63,000 residents about 60 miles northwest of Orlando.
"The mood has changed, the vibe has changed out here. Nothing’s really different, but you could feel it. It’s eerie now because it’s always been quiet. And it’s just like something major like that happening is just, like, so sad. We’re not used to things like that," she said.
Minyvonne Burke reported from Ocala, Florida, and Antonio Planas from New York City.