The Orange County Board of Supervisors Tuesday approved $100,000 in reward money leading to the arrest and conviction of a suspect in the road-rage fatal shooting of 6-year-old Aiden Leos on the Costa Mesa (55) Freeway in Orange.
Orange County Supervisor Don Wagner offered up $50,000 from his office’s discretionary budget, and then Supervisor Katrina Foley chipped in another $50,000 from her office’s budget. Both were approved by the board unanimously.
Leos was fatally shot on Friday while his mother was driving him to kindergarten at Calvary Chapel school in Yorba Linda.
The boy’s mother was driving a silver Chevrolet Cruze sedan with her son in the right rear passenger booster seat when another driver opened fire between 7:55 a.m. and 8:15 a.m. on the northbound Costa Mesa Freeway between the Garden Grove (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’s vehicle was that it was a white sedan, DeMatteo said. Investigators later said the vehicle may be a newer model, possibly white “wagon-style” Volkswagen sedan.
The mother pulled over immediately and called 911 and the boy was rushed to Children’s Hospital of Orange County, where he was pronounced dead, DeMatteo said.
The mother, Joanna Cloonan, told reporters, “They took my son’s life away. He was beautiful and kind… and you killed him for no reason.”
She said she was cut off “abruptly” on the freeway before the shot rang out.
“I pulled over and took him out of the car and tried to put my hand on his wound while calling 911,” Cloonan said. “He was losing a lot of blood.”
She appealed to anyone with information to come forward, saying she wanted “justice to be served for my son.”
Wagner said he wanted to match crowdfunding efforts from the family of victim to raise $50,000 because Aiden was killed in Wagner’s district and the kindergartner also was attending school in his district in Yorba Linda.
The mother, who was driving the car when her son was killed, lives in Costa Mesa, which is Foley’s district.
“I would like to match that from my office because Aiden was from my district,” Foley said.
She said the shooting was “horrific. You’re driving your child to school and your whole life changes because you’re changing lanes. It’s just outrageous.”
Foley, who was mayor of Costa Mesa before being elected to the board in a special election this year, added that she has requested a match from the city of Costa Mesa as well.
Wagner said, “We don’t know what it’s going to take to turn the tide and bring this person to justice.”
Wagner appealed to any motorists who were on the freeway when the shooting happened to turn over any dash-cam footage to investigators. Reward or not, Wagner encouraged anyone with information to do the right thing and come forward.
The family’s separate GoFund Me page had raised more than $164,000 as a separate reward as of Sunday, but it was taken down by Monday.
Meanwhile, California Highway Patrol officers have poured additional resources into the investigation, CHP Officer Florentino Olivera said.
“We’re asking the public if the know anything, if anybody’s been talking about this, please step up and say something,” Olivera said.
The agency also established the firstname.lastname@example.org email address to receive any tips about the shooting. Anonymous tips can also be phoned in to 800-TELL-CHP, Olivera said.
“Someone is always available to answer that call,” Olivera said.
Investigators were “working non-stop” combing through Caltrans camera footage and other evidence to see if there was any video that would offer a clue, Olivera said.
Also, anyone who was in the opposite lane of traffic when the shooting occurred was asked to check dash-cam video that might be helpful to investigators, Olivera said.
“We’re also asking for help from people going southbound that day because that was bumper-to-bumper traffic,” Olivera said. “If they have dash-cam video that would be helpful.”
He added, “We lost a 6-year-old boy to this senseless violence, so if you know something step up and say something.”
Relatives said Aiden’s death has devastated the family.
“My mom, there was a road-rage on the freeway, and someone pulled out a gun and shot my little brother in the stomach,” the boy’s 15-year-old sister, Alexis Cloonan, told reporters. She said there were two people in the suspect vehicle — a female driver and a male passenger.
“He was only 6, and he was so sweet,” Alexis said through tears. “He was a very, very loving boy. So please, help us find who did this to him.”
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.”
The CHP closed the northbound side of the freeway for several hours following the incident to search for clues.
Investigators have assured the public that the shooting was not related to the rash of suspected pellet-gun shootings of vehicles on Southland freeways.
Anyone with information that may be helpful to investigators is asked to call CHP Officer Kevin Futrell at 714-567-6000.