Aiden Leos, the 6-year-old boy killed in a road-rage shooting on the Costa Mesa (55) Freeway in May, enjoyed frequent visits to the OC Zoo in Irvine Regional Park, his family said Monday at an announcement that a plaque will be erected in a new Large Mammal Exhibit set to open early next year.
“This is a place he came with mom and dad and sister,” said Carla Lacy, the mother-in-law of Aiden’s mother, Joanna Cloonan.
A photo of Aiden at the zoo will be part of the plaque honoring the boy, Orange County Supervisor Don Wagner said.
The photo was taken about 18 months ago, Lacy said. He enjoyed feeding the goats at the zoo, “so it’s a very special place to the family,” Lacy added.
Wagner said the plaque is meant to not only celebrate the life of Aiden, but to stand as a symbol that the county will track down suspects in all violent crimes. Wagner noted how a $50,000 reward for the capture and conviction of suspects in Aiden’s killing snowballed into $500,000 as the community responded to the pleas for tips in the manhunt.
“The question now is what do we do to turn as much of this tragedy as possible into some good,” Wagner said.
The photo of Aiden will be placed before the new mountain lion exhibit at the zoo, Wagner said.
“I can’t think of a better place than here where he enjoyed so many visits,” Lacy said.
Orange County supervisors awarded a contract to design and build the new Large Mammal Exhibit in October 2019. It’s expected to open early next year from January to March, Wagner said.
Joanna Cloonan and her daughter, Alexis, were on hand for the announcement. Cloonan was holding a teddy bear.
Aiden was killed about 8 a.m. May 21 while strapped in his child seat inside his mother’s Chevrolet Sonic. Cloonan was driving her son to kindergarten in Yorba Linda when she tried to switch lanes to exit but was cut off by a white Volkswagen station wagon.
According to Cloonan, she made a gesture to the occupants of the Volkswagen while driving northbound on the Costa Mesa Freeway between the Garden Grove (22) Freeway and Chapman Avenue in Orange and proceeded into the exit lane.
Authorities said they believe the driver of the Volkswagen maneuvered behind Cloonan’s car and the passenger fired the shot into the rear of the vehicle. The bullet passed through the trunk, striking Aiden as he sat on the rear passenger side of his mother’s car.
Cloonan pulled over and called 911. The boy was rushed to Children’s Hospital of Orange County, where he was pronounced dead.
After a 17-day manhunt, two suspects were arrested June 6.
Marcus Anthony Eriz, 24, and Wynne Lee, 23, were arrested at their Costa Mesa apartment. Police said they recovered the weapon believed to have been used in the shooting that killed Aiden. They also recovered the Volkswagen, which was found at a Whittier home, reported to be that of Eriz’s grandmother.
Eriz, the suspected shooter, was charged with murder and a felony count of discharge of a firearm at an inhabited dwelling, with sentencing enhancements for discharge of a firearm causing death. He faces up to 40 years to life in prison if convicted at trial.
Lee, believed to have been driving the Volkswagen, was charged with a felony count of being an accessory after the fact and a misdemeanor count of having a concealed firearm in a vehicle.
Lee faces up to four years behind bars if convicted at trial of all charges. Three of those years would be prison and one in jail.