(HOUSTON) — A Texas medical student well known in her community as an Iranian activist was mysteriously shot and killed in her car, just yards from her home.
Gelareh Bagherzadeh, 30, was driving through her Houston townhouse complex around midnight on Monday when she was shot dead through her car window.
“When officers arrived, they found a vehicle had run into a garage door at that location with the engine running and tires spinning on the pavement. Ms. Bagherzadeh was found slumped over in the driver’s seat,” the Houston Police Department said in a statement.
Authorities said nothing appeared to have been stolen from her car. Her cellphone and purse were found inside.
“Homicide investigators responded to the scene and were told by witnesses that several gunshots were heard, a crash and then tires squealing,” the statement said.
Police told ABC News Houston affiliate KTRK that the last person to speak to Bagherzadeh was her close friend and ex-boyfriend who was on the phone with her when she was shot.
“[The boyfriend] heard a loud thud. He doesn’t recall hearing any gunshots, but a loud thud and then a screeching noise,” Richard Bolton of the Houston Police Department Homicide unit told KTRK.
Bagherzadeh was of Iranian descent and was outspoken in promoting Iranian women’s rights and criticizing the Iranian government, according to interviews she had done with the Houston Chronicle.
Photos and video from the newspaper’s website show Bagherzadeh participating in a 2010 protest calling for a regime change in Iran. At the time, she requested that her name not be used in the video because she was afraid of persecution, according to the Houston Chronicle.
“It’s not believed that she was targeted because of her ethnicity or because she was an activist,” Houston Police Department spokesman Victor Senties told ABC News.
Police don’t currently believe her death was related to her activism, but the death is mysterious. Bagherzadeh’s cellphone and purse were still inside.
Bagherzadeh was studying molecular genetic technology at the Texas Medical Center.
Her family could not be reached for comment.
Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio
Selena Larson, CNN
Christopher Dawson, CNN
Eric Bradner, CNN
Emanuella Grinberg, CNN