June 12, 2021

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Boy killed in road rage shooting on 55 Freeway in Orange was bright, loving, family says – OCRegister

6 min read

Investigators on Saturday were vetting witness accounts of the shooting death of a 6-year-old boy on the 55 Freeway in Orange, as a portrait of the youngster began to emerge through family members.

California Highway Patrol investigators continued their search for a white Volkswagen station wagon and two occupants, a man and woman, and planned to work throughout the weekend in hopes of finding those responsible for the boy’s death Friday, CHP spokesman Florentino Olivera said.

  • A large stuffed toy bear and a poster board with a photo and notes are a part of a growing memorial on the E. Walnut Avenue overpass of the 55 freeway in Orange on Saturday, May 22, 2021, for the 6-year-old boy who was shot and killed during a road-rage attack on the 55 Freeway in Orange on Friday morning, May 21, 2021. (Photo by Mark Rightmire, Orange County Register/SCNG)

  • Words written on the pole of a flag tied to the fence is part of a growing memorial on the E. Walnut Avenue overpass of the 55 freeway in Orange on Saturday, May 22, 2021, for the 6-year-old boy who was shot and killed during a road-rage attack on the 55 Freeway in Orange on Friday morning, May 21, 2021. (Photo by Mark Rightmire, Orange County Register/SCNG)

  • Susan Kellogg of Orange brings two stuffed toy animals to a growing memorial on the E. Walnut Avenue overpass of the 55 freeway in Orange on Saturday, May 22, 2021, for the 6-year-old boy who was shot and killed during a road-rage attack on the 55 Freeway in Orange on Friday morning, May 21, 2021. (Photo by Mark Rightmire, Orange County Register/SCNG)

  • A bouquet of flowers and a heart are part of a growing memorial on the E. Walnut Avenue overpass of the 55 freeway in Orange on Saturday, May 22, 2021, for the 6-year-old boy who was shot and killed during a road-rage attack on the 55 Freeway in Orange on Friday morning, May 21, 2021. (Photo by Mark Rightmire, Orange County Register/SCNG)

  • Many bouquets of flowers and stuffed toy animals are part of a growing memorial on the E. Walnut Avenue overpass of the 55 freeway in Orange on Saturday, May 22, 2021, for the 6-year-old boy who was shot and killed during a road-rage attack on the 55 Freeway in Orange on Friday morning, May 21, 2021. (Photo by Mark Rightmire, Orange County Register/SCNG)

  • A bouquet of flowers tied to the fence is part of a growing memorial on the E. Walnut Avenue overpass of the 55 freeway in Orange on Saturday, May 22, 2021, for the 6-year-old boy who was shot and killed during a road-rage attack on the 55 Freeway in Orange on Friday morning, May 21, 2021. (Photo by Mark Rightmire, Orange County Register/SCNG)

“I know people were calling in yesterday, but they’re not sure if they were credible or not,” he said.

While investigators received some statements into Saturday morning, it wasn’t clear if dashcam or other video evidence that the CHP was hoping to gather had been captured and forwarded to the agency, Olivera said.

The boy, Aiden Leos, and his mother Joanna Cloonan were on their way to Calvary Chapel Yorba Linda on Friday morning, where Aiden was a kindergartner, said Carly Lacy, Aiden’s step-grandmother, on Saturday.

Aiden was a tender-hearted child with a big smile who loved playing with his trucks and action figures, Lacy said. Alexis Cloonan, his half-sister, had just given Aiden a Nintendo Switch video game system, Lacy said, and Alexis was devastated at the thought that he would no longer get to play it.

He just celebrated his 6th birthday on May 12, Lacy said.

She said she saw Aiden’s loving nature after babysitting him for a night about a year ago.

“When his mom came to pick him up, the way he held her and the way he hugged her with his arm around her neck, it was an embrace I’d never seen before,” Lacy said. “It really caught my eye because he was so tender, bonding and loving on his mother. That was so beautiful. I was able to see the connection was really special.”

Aiden Leos was in a booster seat in the back seat of his mother’s car when the shooting occurred. The bullet appeared to go through the trunk and hit the boy in the back, family members said.

Aiden’s mother said he told her his “tummy hurts,” and she pulled over to the side of the road, Alexis Cloonan told reporters on Friday night. Once she pulled Aiden out of the car, his mother dropped to the ground after she saw blood, Alexis Cloonan said. Witnesses and an off-duty police officer then pulled over to help the mother and child.

“My sister’s been through a lot. She’s a single mom,” John Cloonan, Aiden’s uncle, told reporters Friday. Then directing his remarks to the killer, he said, “You took her son away. This boy was full of love and joy and laughter.”

  • Aiden Leos, 6, was seated in a booster seat in the back seat of his mother’s car when a suspect shot at them on the 55 Freeway in Orange. Aiden later died at a hospital. (Courtesy of Carly Lacy)

  • A photo of Aiden, the boy killed in the shooting on the 55 Freeway in Orange on Friday, May 21 (GoFundMe)

  • Alexis Cloonan, left, and Aiden Leos, right, take a photo with their mother, who was driving Aiden to school when the road rage shooting took place Friday morning, May 21. (Courtesy of Carly Lacy)

  • Aiden Leos, left, had just celebrated his sixth birthday with family members, May 12, including his sister, Alexis Cloonan. (Courtesy of Carly Lacy)

  • Aiden Leos, 6, was a bright, loving boy, according to family members. He died Friday after a road rage shooting on the 55 Freeway in Orange. (Courtesy of Carly Lacy)

  • Balloons, flowers and teddy bears with red hearts saying, “I love you” were left along the Walnut Avenue overpass of the 55 Freeway on Friday night after a 6-year-old boy was shot and killed that morning in what police described as a road rage incident. (Photo by OC Hawk)

  • Police investigators on the closed northbound lanes of the 55 freeway south of Chapman Avenue in Orange following a shooting in which a child was shot in a car on Friday morning, May 21, 2021. (Photo by Mark Rightmire, Orange County Register/SCNG)

  • Yellow crime scene tape stretches across the northbound lanes of the 55 freeway in Orange as police investigators walk the freeway looking for evidence following a shooting in which a child was shot in a car on Friday morning, May 21, 2021.(Photo by Mark Rightmire, Orange County Register/SCNG)

  • A Chevrolet Sonic sits on the shoulder of the northbound 55 freeway north of Chapman Avenue in Orange following a shooting in which a child was shot in a car on Friday morning, May 21, 2021. (Photo by Mark Rightmire, Orange County Register/SCNG)

  • The California Highway Patrol closes the northbound lanes of the 55 freeway in Orange as police investigators walk the freeway looking for evidence following a shooting in which a child was shot in a car on Friday morning, May 21, 2021.(Photo by Mark Rightmire, Orange County Register/SCNG)

  • A Chevrolet Sonic with an apparent bullet hole in the trunk sits on the shoulder of the northbound 55 freeway north of Chapman Avenue in Orange following a shooting in which a child was shot and killed in a car on Friday morning, May 21, 2021. (Photo by Mark Rightmire, Orange County Register/SCNG)

Aiden’s parents had split custody, Lacy said, adding that his father was very involved in his life and also was horrified by news of the shooting.

The white station wagon cut off the car Aiden was in to get into the carpool lane, said Reyes Valdivia, who along with his wife pulled over to help the mother and son. The mother told them she “flipped off” the car, and when she started transitioning to the right, the suspect vehicle slipped behind her before one of the occupants fired the shot, Valdivia said.

The CHP has not publicly verified those details but described the incident as a road rage attack.

Mourners on Saturday continued to leave teddy bears, flowers and signs at a memorial created in Aiden’s honor on the Walnut Street overpass to the 55 Freeway near the Chapman Avenue exit.

A GoFundMe page set up for Aiden’s mother had eclipsed $109,000 in donations by Saturday afternoon. Another GoFundMe page was started for Aiden’s father Saturday.

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