Police in suburban Washington, D.C. are investigating the murder of the 21-year-old transgender woman who was shot dead outside a Maryland shopping center on
Thursday, October15. Zella Ziona was found in an alleyway near a Washington, D.C. parking lot between two shopping malls, with a fatal gunshot wound to her head. She later died at a hospital.
According to The Advocate, Ziona is the 21st transgender person killed in the United States in 2015, a record-high number. Police initially identified Ziona as a man due to identification found at the scene, but after speaking with friends and family, authorities on Friday correctly used her chosen gender and name. Although police have not officially called her death a hate crime, they haven't ruled out the possibility. "This is a horrific crime and a tragedy for those who knew Zella," Montgomery County Police Chief J. Thomas Mangersaid in a statement.
As with all homicides in Montgomery County, we have detectives working around the clock to thoroughly and completely investigate this murder." Friends and supporters have taken to social media, many using the hashtag #SayHerName, to remember Ziona, and to draw attention to what has been called a violent epidemic against trans people. Police have not identified a suspect, but a witness told WJLA that he saw Ziona surrounded by and arguing with four or five teenagers, one of them then shot her four or five times.
A witness who wished to remain anonymous told WJLA that he saw the gunfire around 5:50 p.m. on Thursday. "They argued and things happened so fast. I don't know what they argued for," the witness said. In the midst of an argument, he says one of the teens pulled out a gun and shot Ziona in the head. A $10,000 reward is being offered for information leading to an arrest.