Houston woman fatally shot while helping with Hurricane Michael recovery in Florida

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A group of Houston residents helping with the Hurricane Michael recovery effort in Florida were involved a shooting Wednesday night that left one woman dead, according to the Fort Walton Beach Police Department.

The woman, identified by police as 24-year-old Aija Hunter, succumbed to her gunshot wound to the abdomen at the Fort Walton Beach Medical Center. Another Houston resident in the group was shot in his leg but survived, police said.

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The suspect, 24-year-old Ledesma Vonzell Wooden, who was also part of the group, has been charged with homicide, attempted murder and aggravated battery with a deadly weapon, police said in a press release.

Additional charges may follow, the release said.

Hunter’s mother, Michelle Anderson, said her daughter ran a family cleaning business in Houston called Majestic Hands. She described Hunter as an “extremely positive, loving and giving person.”

“I haven’t even been able to process exactly what I’m feeling right now,” Anderson said.

Police called the shooting a “tragic isolated incident” involving five people from Houston who were temporarily living in Okaloosa Island, located roughly 45 miles east of Pensacola.

They worked for a company sent to help with the Hurricane Michael relief effort in Panama City. Anderson said she didn’t know the company name, but Hunter left with the group about a month ago, she said.

She said Hunter came home for a day before leaving to Florida.

“Which is the last time that I had the opportunity to see me baby,” Anderson said.

Around 8:30 p.m. Wednesday night, the group was sitting at a Greyhound Bus station at 101 Perry Avenue in Fort Walton Beach when a verbal altercation ensued, police said.

Police said Wooden brandished a forearm and fired several shots, striking two of the three occupants sitting in a company van, including Hunter.

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Fort Walton Beach police could not immediately be reached for comment on Thursday, but Major Tracy Hart told WEAR-TV that Wooden was standing outside the company van when he opened fire.

Police apprehended a fleeing Wooden, while Hunter and the other wounded man were taken to a hospital, police said.

Wooden was not granted bail, and he is awaiting a hearing, jail records show. Wooden has previously faced several criminal charges in Harris County dating back to 2011, according to court records.

In 2017, he was charged with possession of a controlled substance, possession of a firearm and burglary. In 2011, he faced a charge of theft between $500 and $1,500.

Anderson said she wasn’t aware of any relationship between Hunter and Wooden before the trip to Florida. She didn’t know the daily activities of the group, but at one point, Hunter told her they had been cleaning up a mall.

The family, she said, is preparing to pick up the body in Florida.

“Right now, it’s just so much [emotion],” Anderson said.

Julian Gill is a digital reporter in Houston. Read him on our breaking news site, Chron.com, and on our subscriber site, houstonchronicle.com. | julian.gill@chron.com | Text CHRON to 77453 to receive breaking news alerts by text message