Transgender woman Zella Ziona found killed in Gaithersburg, Maryland

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.

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.