UPDATE: Sunday, October 17, 2015 10:30 AM EST
According to NBC Washington, police have charged Rico Hector Leblond, a 20-year-old from Germantown, in the murder of Zella Ziona.
Police believe Leblond jumped from behind a dumpster and began shooting, the charging documents say. Witnesses said he had a monster mask over the lower part of his face.
The mask was later found near the scene. Witnesses say the shooter stood over Ziona and continued to fire even after she collapsed on the ground.
Leblond is charged with first-degree murder. Detectives said Leblond was arrested Saturday at the Germantown Transit Center without incident.
He’s being held without bond until a review Monday afternoon.
Police say Ziona was lured to the alley before she was killed. We’ll keep you updated with the latest.
Zella Ziona, 21, became the 22nd trans woman to be killed this year after she was shot in the head Thursday evening in Gaithersburg, Maryland.
NBC Washington reports the incident happened in an alley between Montgomery Village Plaza and Montgomery Village Crossing shopping centers. A witness told reporters the incident escalated quickly when Ziona was arguing with four or five men or possible teenagers. One of the suspects pulled out a gun and shot Ziona in the head.
She was taken to a local hospital where she was pronounced dead. The witness said he held down his horn long enough to get the attention of the suspect and tried to chase him down with his car.
Initial reports misgendered Ziona as DeAndre Smith. Police don’t believe the shooting was random and could possibly be labeled as a hate crime.
NBC Washington reports:
“We are looking at many possibilities in this stage of the investigation,” Montgomery County police spokesman Capt. Paul Starks said. “We are not ruling out the possibility that this could be hate-based.”
“This is a horrific crime and a tragedy for those who knew Zella,” Chief J. Thomas Manger said in a statement Friday. “As with all homicides in Montgomery County, we have detectives working around the clock to thoroughly and completely investigate this murder.”
Several outlets have labeled Zionna as the 21st trans woman to be killed this year, but The Daily Dot’s list of slain trans woman labels Keisha Jenkins as the 21st trans woman. Jenkins was killed earlier this month in a physical assault in Philadelphia. After defending herself from a group of men in a park, she was shot twice in the back. Police have arrested one man in connection with the incident.
Jasmine Black, a friend of Zionna’s says she recently identified as transgender to show she wasn’t afraid to be herself: “She just wanted to embrace her life. She wanted to show the world how to be transgender,” Black said. “She helped people. She inspired someone else named Chris to be himself.”
Zionna is the 19th trans woman of color killed in 2015. The number has sadly rose over the years, inspiring the hashtags, #BlackTransLivesMatter and #ProtectTransLives.