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TimesOC: Orange County mobilizes to catch killer of 6-year-old boy

"Sign up for our TimesOC newsletter" and the L.A. Times logo over the Huntington Beach Pier at sunset.
TimesOC, a newsletter about Orange County, is published Wednesdays and Fridays.
(Los Angeles Times)

Good morning and welcome to the TimesOC newsletter.

It’s Friday, May 28. I’m Ben Brazil, bringing you the latest roundup of Orange County news and events.

The county has spent the last week collectively reeling from the killing of a 6-year-old boy.

Aiden Leos was shot to death last Friday on the 55 Freeway in Orange while being driven to kindergarten by his mother in what has been described as a road rage incident.

With Leos’ killer still on the loose, the county has mobilized to offer a reward of $310,000 to anyone who offers information that leads to the arrest of the shooter. Orange County Supervisors Don Wagner and Katrina Foley have donated $50,000 each from their offices’ budgets to the effort. Reporter Faith Pinho wrote that an anonymous donor has provided another $50,000, and several Orange County businesses have also donated.

“Maybe there’s a camera somewhere that caught a fleeting glimpse of something that allows law enforcement to connect the dots,” Wagner said at a news conference Thursday at Watson’s Soda Fountain and Cafe in Orange, which donated to the cause. “Whatever it happens to be, come forward, and if you contribute to the capture and the conviction of Aiden’s killer, you’re in line for that reward.”

Pinho wrote that the suspects in the shooting are reportedly a man and woman in a white sedan.

Dist. Atty. Todd Spitzer has called for the suspects to turn themselves in.

“Understand this: We will catch you,” Spitzer said. “We might not do it today, we might not do it tomorrow, it may not even be next week. But we solve crimes in this county that are as old as 40 and 50 years, and we never stop, and we never rest until we put the person into custody and get justice. This is Orange County, California, and make no mistake where you committed your crime.”

Southern California freeways have been more dangerous than usual these last few weeks. The 91 Freeway has been plagued by mysterious BB gun shootings in Orange, Riverside and Los Angeles counties. However, headway may have been made this week after a suspect was arrested on suspicion of shooting BB guns at cars on the 91 Freeway.

Reporter Richard Winton wrote that Jesse Leal Rodriguez, 34, of Anaheim was booked into the Robert Presley Detention Center in Riverside on charges of assault with a deadly weapon. He is being held on $750,000 bail, according to the CHP.

Authorities are still trying to figure out if Rodriguez is responsible for the 100 other similar BB gun shootings that have occurred.

Anyone with possible information about the shooting of Aiden Leos should contact California Highway Patrol at (714) 567-6000 or visit www.aiden-reward.com.

A photo of Aiden Leos and his family.
A photo of Aiden Leos and his family.
(GoFundMe)

NEWS

— The Costa Mesa City Council this week began charting a pathway to post-pandemic recovery. While the city has suffered financially, it will get some help in the form of $10 million in disaster reserves and federal pandemic assistance, as well as $26 million from the Biden administration’s American Rescue Plan.

— A children’s library opened this week at the Pacific City shopping plaza in Huntington Beach. The ocean-themed Reading Reef library encourages children to check out a book and leave one in exchange. The library will host live readings from local authors on the last Wednesday of each month.

— The Orange County Grand Jury is pushing for an independent audit of the Sheriff’s Department to ensure that evidence is not continuing to be mishandled by deputies. The grand jury’s report, released this week, delves into the much-publicized evidence mishandling scandal, where Orange County sheriff’s deputies were found to have booked evidence late or failed to book evidence at all and subsequently lied about it in reports.

— A Marine aviation museum could come to the defunct Marine Corps Air Station El Toro. The Flying Leathernecks Historical Foundation, which was founded at El Toro, has proposed refurbishing a hangar at the Orange County Great Park for its museum. The Irvine City Council supported that effort this week when it voted to reserve the hangar as the museum relocates.

SPORTS

— The Angels fired pitching coach Mickey Callaway following an investigation into sexual harassment claims against him. The MLB commissioner said in a statement that Callaway violated the league’s policies and was placed on the Ineligible List. He was accused of inappropriate behavior toward several women in the media.

— The Marina High School boys’ volleyball team is headed to the CIF semifinals after a win this week against Pacifica Christian Orange County High School. Before this year, Marina had not been to the playoffs since 2002.

— The Corona del Mar High School boys’ volleyball team defeated Mater Dei in the quarterfinals of the CIF Southern Section Division 1 playoffs.

— The Fountain Valley High School boys’ basketball team defeated its rival Edison in the first round of the CIF playoffs. The win was hard-earned.

LIFE & LEISURE

— A men’s magazine named Costa Mesa as a top destination for outdoor art. The magazine writer who penned the article noted that the entire city is a blank canvas. Art adorns storefronts, restaurants, utility boxes and everything in between.

— The Orange County Children’s Therapeutic Arts will fully return to in-person learning by June 7. The nonprofit provides arts learning to children with at-risk youth and children with special needs.

OPINION

— Columnist Patrice Apodaca wrote about misinformation about the state’s new ethnic studies curriculum. She said that the opponents of ethnic studies and anti-bias education have been stirring up controversy.