MONTGOMERY VILLAGE, Md. (AP) — Montgomery County Police say a transgender woman was shot and killed between two shopping centers in Montgomery Village.
Officers say 21-year-old Zella Ziona was found suffering from a gunshot wound about 5:45 p.m. Thursday in an alley between Montgomery Village Plaza and the Montgomery Village Crossing shopping centers. She was pronounced dead at a hospital.
Gawker reports that a witness saw four or five teenagers surround Ziona, and an argument quickly ensured. Soon after, one of the men reached for his gun and fired.
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On Friday, authorities arrested Rico Hector Leblond, 20 of Germantown, charging him in connection with Ziona’s murder.
“[The attack] is not random,” said Montgomery County police captain Paul Starks told The Guardian.
The crime might be investigated as a hate crime. Maryland is one of only 16 states with hate-crime legislation that protects residents on the basis of their actual or perceived gender identity.
Police had earlier identified Ziona as a man named DeAndre Smith. After speaking with relatives, officers learned that Ziona identified as female.