Maryland county police have charged a local man with first-degree murder for the shooting death of a transgender woman.
Zella Ziona, 21 of Montgomery Village, was shot in the head in an alley behind a Gaithersburg Laundromat Thursday at approximately 5:50 p.m., The Guardian reports. A police statement notes that she was shot multiple times. Ziona was pronounced dead at the hospital hours later.
A witness told a D.C.-area ABC News affiliate that he saw a group of four of five teenagers surround Ziona. An argument reportedly ensued, and that’s when one of the young people reached for their gun and fired.
“[The attack] is not random,” Montgomery County police captain Paul Starks told The Guardian, suggesting that police might investigate the case 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.
Zella Ziona—who The Guardian says was misgendered and misidentified in early reports—is the 22nd transgender or gender-nonconforming person reported killed in 2015, according to the National Coalition of Anti-Violence Programs. This count marks an increase over the previous year, as the NCAVP only documented 20 reported homicides of trans or gender-nonconforming people in 2014. Trans women of color—like Ziona—are disproportionately the victims of LGBTQ and HIV-affected hate violence, per the NCAVP’s 2014 report.