QUEER VOICES
10/17/2015 01:58 pm ET Updated Oct 17, 2015

Black Trans Woman Fatally Shot In Head In Suspected Hate Crime

Zella Ziona is the 21st trans woman reported killed this year.

For the second time this month, a black transgender woman has been killed.

Authorities in Montgomery Village, Maryland, are investigating the killing of Zella Ziona as a hate crime, according to NBC Washington. 

"We are not ruling out the possibility that this could be hate-based," Montgomery County police spokesman Capt. Paul Starks told the station. 

The 21-year-old victim was found in an alley Thursday night after being shot in the head. She was taken to the hospital, where she later died.

A witness to the killing told WJLA he heard four to five gunshots following an argument between Ziona and a group of teenagers.

"They argued and things happened so fast," the witness, who didn't want to be named, told the station. "I don't know what they argued for."

Ziona is one of at least 21 transgender women who have been killed in the U.S. this year, according to The Advocate. The actual number may be much higher, as family members of a victim may not report to police or media that the individual was trans. At least 17 of the 21 victims this year, including Ziona, were women of color.

On Friday, friends of Ziona brought candles to the alley where she was found.

"She was just amazing," Barbie Johnson told NBC Washington. "When Zella's around, there's not a single frown in the room."

"It's tragic," Rock Clarkson, who was in the area where Ziona was killed, told WJLA. "Senseless violence is something none of us wants to live around."

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