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Ibram X. Kendi (and other leftists) get self-defense wrong in the Ajike S. Owens case

Get ready folks, because we are pretty sure leftists are trying to stir up another Trayvon Martin/George Zimmerman situation over a criminal case down in Florida—driven, we suspect, by presidential politics because of course. Here’s how Ibram X. Kendi framed it:


And the Washington Post story he links to explains in more detail:

The neighbor had reportedly thrown roller skates at the children Friday, after which their mother knocked on the neighbor’s door to confront her about ‘harming the children,’ according to a police report. The neighbor allegedly fired a gun from behind the door, hitting the mother.

Officials identified the victim as Ajike S. Owens, 35, also known as ‘AJ.’ They said the suspect is a 58-year-old White woman, whom they did not identify.

No charges have been filed in the case, and the county sheriff said his office could not make an arrest in the shooting until authorities determined whether the use of force had been justified under Florida’s ‘stand your ground’ law. The law states that a person can use deadly force if they reasonably believe it could ‘prevent imminent death or great bodily harm to himself or herself or another.’ …

Owens’s children ‘were playing in a field next to an Ocala apartment complex’ Friday ‘when an unidentified 58-year-old white woman reportedly began yelling at them to get off her land and calling them racial slurs,’ according to Crump’s statement.

Child witnesses told police that a dispute ensued over the children’s tablet and said the woman had ‘thrown roller skates at the juveniles,’ according to the police report.

According to Crump, Owens’s children left the area after the altercation but ‘accidentally left an iPad behind, which the woman took. When one of the children went to her residence to retrieve it, she threw it, hitting the boy and cracking the screen.’

The police report did not confirm that the woman had thrown an iPad. Woods, when asked Monday about parts of Crump’s statement, said he could not yet confirm or deny the allegations, including what was thrown by the neighbor and whether it was directly at the children.

Having heard about the dispute, Owens went to confront her neighbor ‘about striking [redacted name] with a pair of skates,’ a witness told police, Marion County Sheriff’s Deputy Ashton Welfenberg wrote in the police report.

People at the scene told police that Owens had begun knocking on her neighbor’s door when a weapon was fired from within the home. Bullets went through the front door and hit Owens.

Owens staggered back and collapsed beneath a tree, calling 911 as she did, according to the police report. When police arrived, people were gathered around her, trying to give her medical aid.


Now, there are two additional details that come from this report:

First, she was apparently arrested last night. Second, her name is Susan Lorincz—although we have seen alleged picture of her on Twitter that we can’t verify to be her. There’s even a twitter user with that name, but we are not sure that is the same person.

But let’s untangle this (because the way the Washington Post told the story was backwards) and combine it with real law—not the bad interpretation of the law put forth by the Post and Kendi (and, sigh, others). So according to them, the Owens children were playing on a piece of land and Lorincz expressed the belief this was trespass. Was that true?

We don’t know. And the reason why it might be important is because if she threw a skate (or sometimes it is described as a rollerblade) at the Owens children that itself could be a crime. Like most states, Florida divides the right to the use of force between deadly force and non-deadly force. When you are stopping a mere trespass on your yard—as opposed to someone breaking into your home—then you are allowed to use non-deadly force to protect your property. Fla. Stat. § 776.031(1) says:

A person is justified in using or threatening to use force, except deadly force, against another when and to the extent that the person reasonably believes that such conduct is necessary to prevent or terminate the other’s trespass on … real property other than a dwelling … lawfully in his or her possession or in the possession of another who is a member of his or her immediate family or household or of a person whose property he or she has a legal duty to protect.

(Please note: This is not legal advice, even if you happen to live in Florida). So, the law might give her the right to throw the skate (if she was in lawful possession of that real estate, etc.) if it was necessary to drive the kids off her property. So … did she tell them to leave and they wouldn’t go? Then it might be arguably necessary. The same goes for the iPad. One child allegedly left it behind ‘accidentally’ (in a panic, we assume), and she took possession of it. When he came back for it, did he trespass again? Was it necessary to throw it at him to get him to leave? We don’t know.


By the way, we will note that this behavior doesn’t sound particularly neighborly, but the law doesn’t require niceness. We are talking about what behavior is criminal, not what behavior is asinine.

Then Lorincz apparently went into her home and closed the door, and their mother, Ajike Owens, came over. She at least knocked on Lorincz’s door, but there is some suggestion in the news conference shown in this video …

… that there was at least an allegation that it was more than just knocking. Notice the reference to ‘be it banging on the walls, banging on the door, or threats being made.’ It’s vague, but it raises the question: Did Owens do anything that led Lorincz to believe she was attempting to break into the house? Or did Owens threaten Lorincz? We don’t know, but the answer to those questions would be critical.

For starters, in Florida (and in every jurisdiction we are aware of) deadly force is justified whenever a person reasonably fears that deadly force will be applied to them. From Fla. Stat. § 776.012:

A person is justified in using or threatening to use deadly force if he or she reasonably believes that using or threatening to use such force is necessary to prevent imminent death or great bodily harm to himself or herself or another or to prevent the imminent commission of a forcible felony.

Thus, deadly force is justified when you reasonably fear deadly force yourself. Further, the term ‘deadly force’ is not limited to force that will kill you. Rather it is ‘force likely to cause death or great bodily harm.’ Suppose, for instance, you are not afraid of dying because of the force being applied to you, but merely afraid you will be blinded: You don’t have to say ‘oh well, I guess I will be blind, then.’ You are allowed to use any force necessary, including deadly force, to prevent that from happening.

So, if Owens shouted something like ‘I’ve got a gun and I am going to start shooting through this door!’ that might create a reasonable fear of deadly force applied to Lorincz, justifying Lorincz in shooting her. Mind you, we don’t know Owens said something like that. Even if she did threaten Lorincz, it might have been more like ‘leave my children alone or I will kill you’ which illegal in Florida, but not something that justifies the shooting. Why? Because before you defend yourself, your fear of deadly force has to be imminent. If a guy says ‘I’m going to come to your house and kill you next Monday,’ that’s a crime, but the danger is not imminent. Imminent means right now. Why? Because if the threat is to kill you at some point in the future or on some contingency that might or might not happen, then you have time to call the police. Self-defense is for those moments when you don’t have time to call the police or they won’t make it in time, because ideally these kinds of things should be settled by the authorities when possible.


But there’s another wrinkle: A special rule that applies to homes. If someone is trying to break into your home, the law presumes that you have a reasonable fear of deadly force. Fla Stat. § 776.013(2):

A person is presumed to have held a reasonable fear of imminent peril of death or great bodily harm to himself or herself or another when using or threatening to use defensive force that is intended or likely to cause death or great bodily harm to another if:

(a) The person against whom the defensive force was used or threatened was in the process of unlawfully and forcefully entering …a dwelling, residence, or occupied vehicle … and

(b) The person who uses or threatens to use defensive force knew or had reason to believe that an unlawful and forcible entry or unlawful and forcible act was occurring or had occurred.

There are many exceptions we are not talking about (one of many reasons why you shouldn’t take this as legal advice), but those exceptions do not apply here. So, if Owens was doing much more than knocking, to the point that one could say Owens was attempting to unlawfully enter Lorincz’s home, then the law presumes that Lorincz was had sufficient fear to justify the shooting. That presumption can be rebutted, of course, but Lorincz’s case would be much stronger. And we will note that in Florida, once facts raise the possibility of self-defense, the state has the burden of disproving self-defense beyond a reasonable doubt.

So, let’s get back to Kendi getting the law wrong: ‘In what world was this not a mother defending her kids against a racist aggressor?’ Kendi seems to believe two things. First, that whether or not the Lorincz is a racist is relevant. It is not in and of itself relevant. It might help people understand why this dispute arose (i.e. why she was being unneighborly). But in terms of whether or not a crime was committed by Lorincz, it is irrelevant. While there is such a thing as hate crimes, there has to be a crime, first.

Second, Kendi seems to think that Owens would be justified in using some kind of physical force against Lorincz. He would be wrong. Look back at those statutes again. Even for non-deadly force, the threat has to be imminent. Everyone seems to agree that Lorincz was in her home with the door shut. So, any danger to Owens’ children was over at that moment.

Of course, you don’t need any legal justification to go up to a person’s door and just knock on it and ask a person to stop behavior you disagree with. You don’t even have to be very nice about it when you do. If those are the facts, there is no way this shooting is legally justified. But we don’t have the facts, and we doubt we will any time soon.


Meanwhile, the Washington Post is wrong to even bring up ‘Stand Your Ground.’ Why? Because before that law went into place, Florida—like most U.S. states—did not have a duty to retreat from your own home, unless the attacker is a co-habitant. And how absurd would that be if there was? Imagine a criminal is breaking down your door and you are required to run from your home rather than defend yourself? In any case, the Stand Your Ground statute has nothing to do with it—it’s just part of the Washington Post’s hostility to self-defense and perhaps their desire to portray Florida as some kind of evil right-wing hellhole.

(As for the throwing incidents, we are not aware of any state that imposes a duty to retreat before applying non-deadly force, and Florida didn’t before Stand Your Ground was enacted. Stand Your Ground has nothing to do with that issue, either.)

Next up we have this chucklehead:

He got ‘Internet famous’ making videos where he condemned Sarah Comrie even after her lawyer cast serious doubt on the initial story. Really, it is remarkable that people saw a video of four or five young men against a pregnant health care worker and assumed she was the ‘bad guy’ because they claimed she was, without showing proof. We’re not ready to say she is in the right (we have never seen the receipts, after all), but we never concluded she was definitely wrong, either.

Now, ‘TizzyEng’ alleges a bunch of facts to be true we haven’t heard anywhere else but we don’t find him particularly credible because 1) he cites no sources, 2) he seems to be confused on the new facts he does claim to exist, and 3) he can’t even get the law right. That last part is deadly to his credibility in our minds. The law isn’t in dispute or that difficult to read. You just read the relevant parts of the Florida Statutes. But this chucklehead can’t even do that much.

For instance, he claims that the Stand Your Ground law requires the other person to be coming toward you. Wrong. Only an appropriate threat is needed. The person could theoretically be immobile while holding a gun and it wouldn’t matter.

He claims that you can use deadly force if and only if you fear being killed. We already covered that this is not the law—fear of great bodily harm counts, or to prevent certain felonies. For instance, imagine a man is attempting to rape a woman in Florida, but presents no danger of death to her. She can still pull out a gun and shoot him to death, and the law would call that self-defense. And we happen to think that’s a good thing.


He claims the special rules on deadly force when you are in your home only apply if the person is actually inside the home. The statues clearly state that it applies to people attempting to break into your home, too. Again, we are not saying Owens was trying to do that: We’re just pointing out his legal mistake which was crucial to his analysis.

And we can understand a person being ignorant about the law. That is forgivable. But to confidently state ‘X is the law’ when it is clearly not the law, then that tells me that this person is a sloppy thinker at best, and not to be trusted on the details we can’t independently verify.

Still, like we said, Lorincz has been arrested. Maybe law enforcement found out the answers to these questions and enough of them went against Lorincz to justify it. Indeed, we are not 100% clear what she was arrested for: We see at least three possible events that might lead to charges. So, maybe the facts justify this action. Or maybe they were afraid of riots and decided to arrest a scapegoat to calm things down.

Who knows? While we will consider seriously any official statement about what happened, we won’t believe we have all the facts until we hear Lorincz’s side of it, and that might be a while. And unlike many people, we are fine with the facts being unknown to us for a long time. We don’t have to pretend we know the answers right now.

We wish more people felt the same way.


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