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A New Jersey man has been charged with murder in the shooting death of a transgender woman, authorities said.
Daniel L. Smith, 36, was arrested late Saturday in Ewing on charges of murder and weapons offenses after Shaquil Loftin, 23, was found shot in the face at a Trenton home early Friday, according to the Mercer County Prosecutor’s Office.
Smith, of Ewing, was taken into custody during a traffic stop in his hometown.
Authorities did not release a motive in the slaying, but potential bias charges against him are being investigated as Loftin identified as female, prosecutors said.
Trenton cops responded to a report of gunfire at a residence and found Loftin dead at about 4:40 a.m. Friday. She was taken to a hospital in Trenton and later pronounced dead.
Smith was arrested after investigators obtained a search warrant at the residence where Loftin was found, as well as interviews with witnesses who implicated him as the suspect in Friday’s fatal shooting. Exactly what led up to the murder remains under investigation, detectives said.
An online fundraiser set up in Loftin’s memory, meanwhile, said she was known as “Shai” and was “murdered” while protecting her loved ones.
“Shaquil loved to dress, smile and see everyone happy & smiling,” the website reads. “Unfortunately Shai’s death has shocked us all.”
Organizer Hollie Flowers said Loftin went by the name Shai Vanderpump. A Facebook profile indicated she graduated from Trenton Central High School in 2016 and lived in Trenton.
Anyone with additional information about Friday’s shooting should contact the Mercer County Homicide Task Force at (609) 989-6406.
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