The document, entitled a Statement of Probable Cause, was filed in Montgomery County General District Court on Saturday. It says witnesses told detectives that Rico Hector Leblond, 20, and Ziona knew each other and the shooting took place following a “simmering dispute that had been escalating” between the two.
The statement identifies Ziona as a trans woman but refers to her by her birth name.
“Witnesses said that after initially shooting Smith, the suspect walked over to her, stood over her, and fired more rounds into her body,” the police statement says. “Smith suffered gunshot wounds to the head and groin area,” it says.
Police said the shooting took place shortly before 5:50 p.m. Oct. 15 in an alley behind the Montgomery Village Crossing shopping center just outside Gaithersburg. The police statement filed in court says Ziona was taken to Suburban Hospital, where she was pronounced dead at 8:12 p.m.
“It appears that Smith and Leblond had some sort of friendship and that information had now become public,” the police statement says. “Leblond was very upset with Smith when this information came to light. In the recent past, Leblond was with his crew at the Lake Forest Mall when Smith approached his group and began acting flamboyantly towards Leblond and greatly embarrassed Leblond in front of his peers,” says the statement.
The statement says a witness who was standing a few feet away when the shooting occurred provided this information to detectives investigating the murder. The identity of the witness is being withheld out of “fear of reprisal,” the statement says.
According to the statement, police received a call for service about 5 p.m. on the day of the murder from someone at the Lake Forest Transit Center saying three to five males were fighting with a stick and a knife. Lake Forest Transit Center and Lake Forest Mall are located a short distance from the area where Ziona was shot.
“Detectives believe that Smith was assaulted by a subject with a stick at that time,” the statement says. “This event may have served as a precursor to lure Smith into the alleyway to fight and where she was ultimately murdered,” it says.
The statement says police arrested Leblond at the Germantown Transit Station and transported him to the Montgomery County Police Major Crimes Division for an interview, where he was advised of his rights.
“Rico stated he didn’t know where the town of Gaithersburg was located or where Lake Forest Mall was and stated he had never been there,” the statement says.
Leblond, who was charged with first-degree murder, was being held without bond since his arrest. He was scheduled to appear in court in Rockville on Monday.
Court records show he has a prior record of several criminal charges filed against him, including assault, robbery, theft and trespassing.
“It’s clear that this was an absolutely premeditated murder,” Capt. Darren Francke, commander of the Montgomery County Police Major Crimes Division, told the Washington Post. “Leblond sought out the victim and killed her,” the Post quoted him as saying.
Montgomery County State’s Attorney John McCarthy, who serves as the county’s chief prosecutor, told the Post his office and detectives were investigating whether Leblond’s motive for the murder was solely anti-transgender bias or whether it was linked to his relationship with Ziona.
A candlelight vigil at the site of the murder in remembrance of Ziona’s life was scheduled to take place Sunday night. Among those expected to participate in the vigil were members of Ziona’s family, including her mother, who have said their love and admiration of her did not waiver earlier this year when she began to transition.