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Downtown L.A.'s skid row mourns slaying of transgender woman

As  some homeless pitched their tents for the evening, dozens of skid row residents gathered Thursday night to remember a transgender woman who was gunned down in public just a day earlier.

“She was such a nice girl,” said Stephanie Williams, whose tent was set up next to a small shrine of candles and flowers. “It’s a shame for this to happen to such a beautiful soul.”

The slain woman, Kourtney Yochum, was a resident of Gateways Apartments, a supportive housing project for formerly chronically homeless individuals, according to SRO Housing Corp. officials. Some acquaintances knew the victim as Kourtney Davia Dawsonn-Yochum.

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For the Record

7:16 p.m., March 25: An earlier version of this post misspelled the last name of Kourtney Yochum as Youchum. 

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She was killed shortly before 2 p.m. on Wednesday, when a gunman approached her and opened fire in the 500 block of South San Pedro Street, according to Officer Tony Im of the Los Angeles Police Department. She was pronounced dead at the scene.

Alex Valiente, an armed security guard who works at a nearby apartment building, said he saw a man running down South San Pedro Street. 

“Five or six guys were chasing him, saying, ‘Stop him. Stop him,’” Valiente told the Los Angeles Times. At one point, the man fell into the street and the crowd started to kick him. The man then brandished a gun and waved it in the air, Valiente said. 

When the gun-waving man escaped the crowd, Valiente said he chased him to the corner of San Julian and 6th streets. There, Valiente said he ordered the suspect to the ground and held him at gunpoint.  

“I heard people saying ‘Shoot him.’ They wanted him dead for what he did,” Valiente said.

Another security guard came over with a pair of handcuffs, he said.

Police identified the gunman as Daniel Molayem, 39, a homeless man. Molayem and Yochum had been in a dating relationship for an unknown amount of time, said Jane Robison, a spokeswoman for the Los Angeles County District Attorney's Office.

On Friday, prosecutors charged Molayem with one count of murder as well as one count of assault with a firearm, according to the complaint. Prosecutors have identified the homicide victim as Courtney Y., the complaint states.

Molayem is scheduled to be arraigned on April 8.

Im said the killing was possibly triggered by domestic violence.

At the vigil Thursday, Mariana Vasquez said the role of domestic violence was clear.

“Her boyfriend would follow her around, even come in the building sometime," said Vasquez, who lived in the apartment complex. "I didn't know her real well because she was a 'hi and bye' kind of girl. But people had seen him before and you could just tell it wasn't healthy. I wish someone would have said something."

Others in the crowd discussed the scourge of violence toward transgender people and general violence among the homeless community.

Amoretta Buchanan, Yochum’s neighbor, tapped the ashes from her cigarette while leaning against her apartment building.

"She was just so cute. She would always strike a pose when she said hello," said Buchanan. She then pouted her lips and shifted her hips to the side in imitation.

"She really went out of her way to keep to herself. Not everybody understood her, and she knew that could be trouble. But those who got to know her, she was such a good person."

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Copyright © 2016, Los Angeles Times

UPDATE

5:50 p.m.: This post has been updated with new information about the suspect and the charges he faces.

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