A transgender woman was shot and killed in Gaithersburg, Maryland, on Thursday evening.
Ziona was found in an alley between the Montgomery Village Plaza and the Montgomery Village Crossing shopping centers. A witness interviewed by local TV station WJLA claimed to have seen the victim prior to the shooting in an argument with another person, when the arguer pulled a gun and opened fire.
Gaithersburg police identified the victim on Friday as 21-year-old Zella Ziona. Police had originally put out a press release Thursday identifying her as a man named DeAndre Smith, but corrected that report after speaking to her friends and family.
Police said they were looking into multiple possibilities for the homicide and have not ruled out a hate crime.
“This is a horrific crime and a tragedy for those who knew Zella,” Gaithersburg police Chief J. Thomas Manger said. “As with all homicides in Montgomery County, we have detectives working around the clock to thoroughly and completely investigate this murder.”
Multiple memorial posts to Ziona from her friends and acquaintances have appeared online since news broke of the shooting.
I just cant believe that you are gone @zella_ziona. I love you so much, I was just talking you the other day. I miss already. You helped me become the person that I am today. You encouraged me to be myself when it came to being the that I wanted to become. You helped me know the dos and donts of cross dressing and now you gone. Like forreal tho, you out of all people but its ok because the people that killed you will get theres. I just want to let you know that even though we had our ups and downs. I love you sis and I will never forget what you done for me. #RIPZellaZiona #TheBaddestTransgender #KnowThat
As of August, at least 20 transgender people have been killed in the United States in 2015.
This post will be updated as more information becomes available.