Two people – including a transgender woman – were beaten with a crow bar or tire iron, shot and killed after being attacked by a group of people late Sunday in Houston.

Willie Sims and Shante Thompson, 34, were found at the corner of Dennis and Fannin in Midtown about 11:20 p.m. on Sunday. They were attacked by a group of people, beaten and shot, according to several media outlets.

Friends of Thompson were shocked at her brutal killing. Via KHOU:

"It really hurts me because I have always looked out for Shante, been there for her and stuff," friend Kevin Braxton told KHOU. "When I got the call and saw her laying in the ground, it really hurt me in my heart."

A trans woman who was nearby when the shooting started told KHOU she thought it was aimed at her.

“I thought it was for me at first,” Marcus Mukes, witness, said. “I thought is someone trying to shoot me.”

There was a barrage of bullets echoing into the night, forcing people in this Midtown neighborhood to take cover.

Mukes believes those initial shots were a just warning of the violence that escalated.

“No, they were shooting up in the air to let her know ‘I’m coming to get you,’” [she] said.

Equality Texas CEO Chuck Smith said the killings could be the result of the anti-LGBT rhetoric that culminated with the defeat of the Houston Equal Rights Ordinance last November.

"The death of two people in Houston, one of whom was a transgender woman, could be the result of the anti-gay and anti-transgender rhetoric that has engulfed Houston over the last two years.  The rhetoric is fueling an atmosphere of hate in Houston and Texas and across the country that is causing innocent Texans to be beaten and killed,” Smith said in a prepared statement on Monday.

"This rhetoric is unacceptable and has real consequences for real Texans who are victims of hate crimes. Sadly, this double murder occurred during the beginning of National Crime Victims’ Rights Week," he added.

Houston-based trans blogger and activist Monica Roberts condemned the killings – noting that Thompson's death was the third of a trans person in Texas this year due to anti-LGBT violence – and blamed religious conservatives who opposed HERO with anti-LGBT rhetoric.

Your faux faith based spreading of transphobia for political gain has finally manifested itself into the death of this trans woman.   You cannot spread anti-trans hatred as you did for years and think it won't have real world societal consequences.

But Thompson's cousin, Calvin Jones, told KPRC that the attack stemmed from a dispute that started weeks ago.

"It was some other homosexuals hating and jealous because she didn't bother nobody. [Thompson] did [her] thing, they were jealous, it was an ongoing altercation. Something happened three weeks ago [and] I thought they squashed it, I'm thinking it was over," Calvin Jones said.

And Thompson's mother, Leola Thompson, told KHOU a group of men has been harassing Shante for "a long time."

One of the attackers may have been a former partner of one of the victims, police told the Houston Chronicle.