A $50,000 reward was offered Sunday for information leading to the arrest of the person who killed a 6-year-old boy in an apparent road-rage shooting on the 55 Freeway in Orange.
The family of Aiden Leos created a GoFundMe page Sunday to announce the reward after a separate crowdfunding page was set up earlier to help the family. That page had raised more than $164,000 as of Sunday.
“We can not let these murders get away with this. We NEED justice for AIDEN!!” the post reads. “As a distant family member I am trying to set up a REWARD of $50,000 for whoever helps in the arrest of these murderers! We will have this reward either way but if you feel led to donate to this, we appreciate your help.”
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Aiden was riding in a carseat in the back of a car driven by his mother Friday morning when he was struck by gunfire from another car. He was on his way to Kindergarten, family members said.
Details about what led up to the shooting were not available, but investigators said it stemmed from an apparent road rage confrontation.
The other driver opened fire between 7:55 a.m. and 8:15 a.m. Friday on the northbound 55 between the 22 Freeway and Chapman Avenue, California Highway Patrol Officer John De Matteo said.
It's unknown how many rounds were fired and the only initial description of the suspect vehicle is a white sedan, DeMatteo said. Investigators later said the vehicle may be a newer model, possibly white Volkswagen “wagon-style” sedan.
The mother pulled over immediately and called 911 and the boy was rushed to Children's Hospital of Orange County, where he died.
Surrounded by her family over the weekend, Joanna Cloonan said she wants Aiden Leos to be remembered.
“It almost felt like he wasn’t human sometimes because he was unbelievably kind and sweet,” she said. “As I was merging away from the carpool lane, I heard a loud noise and I heard my son say ‘ow,’ and I pulled the car over as soon as possible, and he had been shot. I tried to save him by calling 911, but he was losing a lot of blood -- he just didn’t deserve that. No one deserves that.”
Investigators did not provide details of the road rage incident but assured the public it was not related to the rash of suspected pellet-gun shootings of vehicles on the 91 Freeway in Orange and Riverside counties.
“It was an isolated road rage incident between the mom and another driver from a white sedan,” CHP Officer Florentino Olivera said at the scene. “Not sure if there were passengers in that white sedan, but apparently there was a shot fired from that sedan into the silver car, and unfortunately the child that was seated in the right rear seat was struck.”
The CHP asked anyone who may have dash cam camera video of the attack to contact investigators. Relatives said Aiden's death has devastated the family.
The boy's uncle, John Cloonan, said the family wanted to speak out so the shooter “can see what you've done to this family.” Aiden's mother “was merging to the right side to get away from this person,” he said. “And as you can see, if you go online and look at the photos, there's one bullet shot in the trunk that went through the trunk and right through my nephew. So you tell it was a cowardly way of doing it, because they shot her in the back.”
According to relatives, the boy's mother was driving Aiden to kindergarten when the shooting occurred.
Reyes Valdivia told the Los Angeles Times that he and his wife had just dropped their children off at school when they spotted a woman on the freeway shoulder pulling a child out from the passenger side of the car.
He said the woman “was hysterical” and told him she was fired on while driving her son to school in the carpool lane.
Valdivia said the victim said that when she tried to switch lanes to exit, a white sedan with a man and woman inside cut her off and she gestured to them and proceeded into the exit lane, which is when the bullet entered the left side of trunk and “went through the boy's back.”
“She heard her child scream and immediately stopped,” he said.
The CHP closed the northbound side of the freeway for several hours to search for clues.
Olivera said investigators are hoping to hear from witnesses, especially those whose vehicles are equipped with a dash cam camera.
“Even if you think it wasn't anything big, call us,” he said. “We'd like to hear from you.” Anyone with information that may be helpful to investigators is asked to call CHP Officer Kevin Futrell at 714-567-6000.