A 6-year-old boy on his way to school was fatally shot Friday morning when a gunman opened fire on his mother’s car on the 55 Freeway in Orange in what authorities are calling a road rage incident.
The suspect’s vehicle fled immediately after the shooting near West Chapman Avenue as police officers and paramedics responded to the gunfire shortly after 8 a.m., authorities said.
The boy’s mother was traveling on the northbound lanes with her child in a booster seat when the shooting occurred, California Highway Patrol officials said. Witnesses reported hearing a gunshot from a white sedan right before the child’s mother pulled over to the shoulder.
“This was an isolated road rage incident,” CHP Officer Florentino Olivera said. He said the driver of the white sedan shot into the back of the mother’s Chevy Cruze sedan.
The child was hit from behind when a round passed through the trunk of the vehicle, authorities said.
Reyes Valdivia and his wife, Joanna, had just dropped their children off at school when they spotted the woman on the freeway shoulder pulling a child out from the passenger side of the car, he said.
“The mom was hysterical,” Valdivia said. “We couldn’t tell at first what happened to the child.”
The woman told him, “I got shot at in the car,” he said.
“That’s when we noticed the blood on the boy,” Valdivia said.
He looked at the car and realized a bullet had entered the left side of trunk and hit the boy seated in the back in his booster seat.
“It went through the boy’s back,” he said.
A short time later, an off-duty police officer arrived and performed CPR on the boy, Valdivia said.
“We were all hoping he would survive,” he said.
The mother of the child said they were on the way to school in the carpool lane. When she tried to switch lanes to exit, the white sedan with a man and woman inside cut her off, Valdivia said. She gestured to them and proceeded into the exit lane, and that’s when the shooting occurred, he said.
“She heard her child scream and immediately stopped,” he said, recounting what the woman told him.
It was unclear who was driving or who fired the shot, he said.
Valdivia, who said he served in the U.S. military, said seeing a child shot was especially hard to take.
“There was no reason, no justification to shoot a child,” he said. “That shouldn’t happen.”
The child was rushed to nearby Children’s Hospital, where authorities confirmed that the boy had died. His name was not released.
The suspect’s vehicle was last seen heading north on the 55 Freeway, which was shut down for hours. The northbound lanes were reopened about noon.
Officers could be seen from a news helicopter footage combing the area for evidence.
CHP officials said the shooting was not related to dozens of recent BB or pellet gun shootings on the 91 Freeway in Orange, Riverside and Los Angeles counties. There have been nearly 60 cases in which motorists have come under fire.
Such shootings aren’t unprecedented on California’s busy roadways. The rear window of a CHP patrol car was shattered after being struck May 14 in Anaheim on the eastbound shoulder of the 91.
The windows of three cars were shot out on the 91 in Corona overnight Tuesday and into early Wednesday. One car heading east was struck about 11 p.m., and about 5 a.m., the windows of two other cars heading west were damaged.
No serious injuries have been reported so far in the 91 Freeway shootings. So far there are no specific descriptions of suspects or vehicles involved.
“We are taking each of these incidents seriously and actively searching for those responsible,” CHP Assistant Chief Donald Goodbrand said. “The public should still feel safe while driving their vehicles on our California freeways.”
Because of the spate of shootings and the escalating threat, the CHP is conducting a widespread, coordinated investigation across the three counties, Goodbrand said.