A 6-year-old boy was shot and killed in a suspected road rage attack in Southern California. Aiden Leos was on his way to kindergarten when the shooting happened. The boy's distraught family is pleading for the public's help to bring the killer to justice.
Aiden's mother was driving on the northbound lane of the 55 Freeway Friday morning near Orange, southeast of Los Angeles, on the way to Calvary Chapel Yorba Linda, the boy's school. Between 7:55 a.m. and 8:15 a.m., the driver of a white wagon sedan cut off Aiden's mother in the carpool lane, and she responded by giving the driver the middle finger in her rearview mirror.
As Aiden's mom changed lanes, a gunman suspected to be the passenger in the vehicle, believed to be a newer model Volkswagen, fired a fatal shot. The bullet pierced through the back of the silver Chevrolet Sonic and struck Aiden, who was in his car seat in the back seat of the vehicle.
"It was an isolated road rage incident between the mom and another driver from a white sedan," California Highway Patrol Officer Florentino Olivera told KTLA-TV. "Unfortunately, the child that was seated in the right rear seat was struck."
Aiden, who celebrated his sixth birthday last week, was pronounced dead at Children's Hospital Orange County.
The shooter and the driver are still at large.
The freeway was shut down for hours as investigators searched for evidence in the shooting.
The family give heartbreaking details about the shooting
After being shot in the stomach, the little boy cried out, "Mommy, my tummy hurts," according to Aiden's sister Alexis Cloonan.
"So she went and she picked him up and he was bleeding on her, she had blood on her clothes," Cloonan said. "And then he started turning blue, and that's when the ambulance took him. And that's the last time my mom saw him alive."
"She was merging to the right side to get away from this person, 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," John Cloonan, Aiden's uncle, said.
"She didn't know it was a gunshot that was fired, until she heard my little brother saying his stomach hurt," the uncle told KABC-TV. "She had to hold him while he was dying. No mother should have to go through that."
"My sister has been through a lot. She's a single mom. And you took her son away. You took her boy away," Cloonan said. "This boy was full of love and joy and laughter."
"I just want them to know what they took from the world today, what they took from my family. A little child of happiness. We're never going to be full again," the uncle said.
"You can tell it was a cowardly way of doing it because they shot her in the back pretty much," Cloonan said of the shooter.
"This is a single mom with two kids, she's broken, and she's going to need help," Aiden's aunt, Carol Ybanez, said.
"[My mom] had to hold her little boy as he died, so she is very distraught right now," Alexis said at a press conference.
"He was a rare toddler. I just loved having him in my life," Alexis revealed. "I was also so grateful for him because he was a rare toddler. He was just so loving, he would come into my room and be like, 'You're so beautiful sissy.' Always giving people compliments."
The family pleads for the public's help to find the shooter
The slain boy's sister issues a plea for anyone with information about the shooting to come forward.
"Please help us find the people who did this to my little brother," an emotional Cloonan said. "He's only six and he was so sweet. He was a very, very loving boy. So, please help us find who did this to him."
"I hope someone knows something and that whoever did this, I hope you can see what you've done to this family," the uncle said. "Not that it matters much now because my nephew is dead. We're never going to be full again."
The California Highway Patrol is also asking the public to help bring the shooter to justice.
"If your vehicle has a dashcam, we're asking you, please call our CHP office in Santa Ana, provide that video," Officer Olivera said. "If you were driving by, you saw something that was not right, call it in - even if it wasn't something major - call our office. We want to hear from witnesses."
Tips regarding the 6-year-old boy's death can be provided to the CHP's Santa Ana office at (714) 567-6000.
Authorities are searching for two suspects in the shooting of Aiden Leos: the female driver and the male passenger who is believed to be the shooter.
Since the tragic shooting of Aiden Leos, people created a memorial where they brought flowers, balloons, and toys for the deceased boy.
A GoFundMe page was set up for Aiden's mother to "pay for burial costs, replace her car and living expenses while she is not able to work."
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