The road rage killing of 6-year-old Aiden Leos: What we know about suspects, shooting
A man and a woman have been arrested in connection to an apparent road rage shooting that killed 6-year-old Aiden Leos last month on a Southern California freeway, authorities said.
It was an act of violence that stunned Southern California.
A mother was driving with her 6-year-old son on the 55 Freeway on a Friday morning when gunfire rang out.
The boy, Aiden Leos, was struck. His mother held him in her arms until paramedics arrived. Doctors could not save him.
Investigators said the attack appeared to be an act of road rage.
Aiden’s death has sparked anger and mourning. Massive rewards have been offered for information leading to the arrest and conviction of those suspected in the fatal shooting. A team of law enforcement officials has been investigating for the last two weeks.
On Sunday night, two arrests were made in the case.
Investigators are revealing how they found the suspects in the killing of 6-year-old Aiden Leos, which left the Orange County community shocked.
Here is what we know:
Who are the suspects?
Marcus Anthony Eriz, 24, and Wynne Lee, 23, were taken into custody at their home in Costa Mesa on Sunday afternoon. The California Highway Patrol said in a statement that the agency expects the pair will be charged with murder.
Eriz and Lee were being held in the Orange County jail on $1-million bail each. They are scheduled to appear in court Tuesday.
The CHP recovered at least one bullet at the scene of the shooting May 21. The agency has publicly said the bullet came from a pistol of unknown caliber.
A law enforcement source who was not authorized to speak publicly about the case told The Times that Eriz, an auto detailer, is shown in one of his social media accounts with a type of weapon capable of discharging the round that killed Aiden. Officials on Sunday executed search warrants for possible evidence connected to the crime.
Another law enforcement source who was not authorized to speak publicly about the case told The Times that the suspects were under surveillance before their arrests, which came one day after a memorial for Aiden.
Six-year-old Aiden Leos lay dying in his mother’s arms on the 55 Freeway in Orange last month.
What happened in the shooting?
On the morning of May 21, Aiden was riding in a booster seat in the back of his mother’s car, a silver Chevrolet Sonic, heading north on the 55 Freeway in Orange.
His mother, Joanna Cloonan, later told another motorist, Reyes Valdivia, that she and her son were in the carpool lane when another car cut her off as she started switching lanes to exit.
She made an obscene gesture toward the people inside the other car and continued trying to get off the freeway.
Officials believe the driver of the car that cut off Cloonan then maneuvered the vehicle behind her car and one of the people inside fired a gun at her car.
A bullet entered Cloonan’s car from the rear, striking her son through his back.
She pulled over and took the bleeding boy into her arms.
Aiden Leos was fatally shot while riding in his mother’s car on the 55 in Orange. Two people have been arrested in the alleged road rage incident.
The CHP released photos of a 2018 or 2019 white Volkswagen Golf SportWagen that investigators said the suspects were in. A law enforcement source who was not authorized to speak publicly about the case said the two who were arrested Sunday fit the description of the pair in the white car.
Witnesses reported hearing a gunshot from a white sedan right before the child’s mother pulled over to the shoulder of the freeway.
In an interview last month, Valdivia recounted how he and his wife, Joanna, had just dropped their children off at school when they spotted Cloonan pulling her bleeding son from the car.
Valdivia looked at the car and realized a bullet had entered the left side of the trunk and struck the child.
“It went through the boy’s back,” 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.”
Hundreds of people attended a memorial service at Calvary Chapel Yorba Linda, where Aiden Leos was remembered for his ability to empathize with others. A reward for information about the fatal shooting grew to $500,000.
Who was Aiden?
At a memorial service Saturday, Aiden’s mother, his sister Alexis and grandmother recalled memories of the young boy, whom they described as a “little empath,” mature beyond his years.
The 6-year-old had an uncanny ability to empathize with others.
One day at the playground, a boy with autism flung himself to the ground. Most of the boys around him ran away.
Aiden knelt down eye to eye with the child, who had said he didn’t want to talk.
“It’s OK. You don’t have to talk,” he said in a gentle voice, extending a hand to help the boy up. Then, the two played together.
Alexis said her little brother was an “angel, too pure and innocent for this world.” Her voice trembled when she recalled how Aiden would call her “beautiful” or “so lovely.”
She described a gleeful kid who liked to hum, tell jokes and make up silly dances.
But there were some things that made him different from other children his age.
For instance, she said, Aiden regularly came into her room to sit down on the floor next to her while she was on her computer. He would hold his teddy bear and just watch her.
“Aren’t you bored just watching me type on my computer?” she’d ask him.
“No. I’m OK. I just want to be with you,” he told her.
Alexis described her brother’s death as the “worst pain I’ve ever gone through in my life” and lamented what would never be.
“I don’t get to play ‘Mario Kart’ with my brother or take him to the park ever again because of the monster who took Aiden’s life,” she said.
In her address, Cloonan urged viewers to look within themselves “for the world to become safe and harmonious for our children and their children to come.”
On his sixth birthday, Cloonan said, Aiden made a wish as he blew out his candles.
He looked at his family and said: “I just wish for everyone to be happy.”
A Swiss Army knife has about as much in common with an AR-15 as a tricycle does with an Indy 500 race car, columnist George Skelton writes.
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