A photo of 6-year-old Aiden Leos will be part of a new exhibit set to open early next year at the OC Zoo.
Aiden, who was killed in a tragic road-rage shooting last month on a Southern California freeway, liked to visit the OC Zoo in Irvine Regional Park with his family. Family members were there Monday when it was announced that the photo and plaque will be placed in the new Large Mammal Exhibit.
Aiden enjoyed feeding the zoo's goats.
“This is a place he came with mom and dad and sister,'' said Carla Lacy, the mother-in-law of Aiden's mother, Joanna Cloonan. “So it's a very special place to the family.
“I can't think of a better place than here where he enjoyed so many visits.”
A photo of Aiden at the zoo will be part of the plaque, Orange County Supervisor Don Wagner said. The photo was taken about 18 months ago, Lacy said. It will be placed before the new mountain lion exhibit at the zoo, Wagner said.
Wagner said the plaque is meant to not only celebrate the life of Aiden, but to stand as a symbol that the county will track down suspects in all violent crimes. Wagner noted how a $50,000 reward for the capture and conviction of suspects in Aiden's killing snowballed into $500,000 as the community responded to the pleas for tips in the manhunt.
“The question now is what do we do to turn as much of this tragedy as possible into some good,'' Wagner said.
Orange County supervisors awarded a contract to design and build the new Large Mammal Exhibit in October 2019. It's expected to open early next year from January to March, Wagner said.
Joanna Cloonan and her daughter, Alexis, were on hand for the announcement. Cloonan was holding a teddy bear.
Aiden was killed about 8 a.m. May 21 while strapped in his child seat inside his mother's Chevrolet Sonic. Cloonan was driving her son to kindergarten in Yorba Linda when she tried to switch lanes to exit but was cut off by a white Volkswagen station wagon.
Authorities said they believe the driver of the Volkswagen maneuvered behind Cloonan's car and the passenger fired the shot into the rear of the vehicle. The bullet passed through the trunk, striking Aiden as he sat on the rear passenger side of his mother's car.
After a 17-day manhunt, two suspects were arrested June 6.