A 21-year-old transgender woman was shot to death at a Maryland shopping center Thursday afternoon, according to police.
Zella Ziona was found in an alleyway near a Washington, D.C. parking lot with a gunshot wound to her head. She later died at a hospital, according to WJLA.
Ziona is the 21st transgender person killed in the United States in 2015, a record-high number according to The Advocate. Transgender death statistics tracked by advocacy groups don't account for those not properly identified as transgender at the time of death nor those deaths that go unreported by the media.
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, WJLA reported.
“This is a horrific crime and a tragedy for those who knew Zella," Montgomery County Police Chief J. Thomas Manger said 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.