The reward for information leading to the arrest and conviction of the person responsible for the apparent road-rage shooting death of 6-year-old Aiden Leos on the Costa Mesa (55) Freeway in Orange was boosted to $300,000 Wednesday.
The reward money started at $50,000 as the victim’s family crowdfunded it on a GoFundMe page. Then Orange County Supervisor Don Wagner offered up $50,000 from his office’s discretionary budget and Supervisor Katrina Foley added another $50,000 from her office’s budget. Both were unanimously approved Tuesday by Orange County Board of Supervisors.
A local business also anonymously pledged an additional $50,000, Alexis Cloonan, Aiden’s sister said Tuesday.
Another business leader with ties to Orange County District Attorney Todd Spitzer chipped in $50,000.
“I got a call that routed to me from the CHP and I just facilitated that information to Don Wagner’s office to make him aware of it,” Spitzer said.
A consortium of about six local businesses have combined to pony up $50,000, Wagner said.
Bea Reyes of Ben’s Asphalt, one of those businesses, said another anonymous businessman from Villa Park has also pledged $50,000.
Foley said the Costa Mesa City Council is poised to add more to the kitty when it meets next Tuesday.
Bill Skessington, the CEO of Ben’s Asphalt, felt compelled to help because “He’s got close ties to the community and being a father, husband and grandfather who drives that freeway every day he put himself in the parents’ shoes,” Reyes said. “He has so much empathy and wanted to truly pave the way for justice… It really breaks out hearts. (Aiden) was only 6 and had a long life ahead of him.”
Foley said she found herself thinking of Aiden while driving on the 55 Wednesday.
“I couldn’t help but look around and worrying, not wanting to make anyone mad. It’s terrible,” Foley said. “We cannot tolerate allowing this person to go scot free.”
Wagner said he spoke with Aiden’s mother “last night, and I’ve got to say she sounded very, very strong. She’s certainly appreciative of the whole community and thankful for the community.”
Leos’ family attended a vigil Tuesday evening on the Walnut Avenue overpass, near where Aiden was shot and where a memorial of flowers, cards, balloons, candles and a giant pink teddy bear stood.
“I’m just thankful my brother gets to have a family as beautiful as he is,” Cloonan, said.
Cloonan said she and Aiden’s mother, Joanna Cloonan, have read many of the comments left at the memorial and “it makes her smile.”
Aiden was fatally shot on Friday while his mother was driving him to kindergarten at Calvary Chapel school in Yorba Linda.
Joanna Cloonan 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.
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 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 they 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.
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