Two people have been arrested in the shooting death of 6-year-old Aiden Leos, who lay dying in his mother’s arms on the 55 Freeway in Orange last month in what officials have called a road rage incident.
Marcus Anthony Eriz, 24, and Wynne Lee, 23, were taken into custody at their home in Costa Mesa on Sunday. 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 county jail on $1-million bail each. They are scheduled to be in court Tuesday.
The CHP recovered at least one bullet at the shooting scene. The agency has publicly said the bullet came from a pistol of unknown caliber.
A law enforcement source 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 were executing search warrants for possible evidence connected to the crime.
Another law enforcement source told The Times that the suspects were under surveillance before their arrests, which followed by a day a memorial for Aiden.
There has been an outpouring of public grief in the aftermath of the death of Aiden, who was on his way to kindergarten with his mother when the shooting occurred. The reward for information about the shooting quickly grew to $500,000, with donations coming from politicians, a local cafe owner and many others.
A photo of 6-year-old Aiden Leos covers his memorial service program at his funeral on Saturday in Yorba Linda, Calif.
(Gina Ferazzi/Los Angeles Times)
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 northbound 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 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 aimed a gun and fired.
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.
The California Highway Patrol released photos of a white 2018 or 2019 Volkswagen Golf SportWagen that investigators said the suspects were using. A law enforcement source 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.
In an interview last month, Valdivia recounted how he and his wife, Joanna, had just dropped their children off at school when they spotted the mother pulling her son out from the car. The boy was bleeding.
Valdivia looked at the car and realized a bullet had entered the left side of the trunk and hit the boy seated in the back in his booster seat.
“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.”
During the memorial Saturday, which was livestreamed for the public, Aiden’s mother, sister Alexis and grandmother recalled memories of the young boy, whom they described as a “little empath,” mature beyond his years.
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.”
The California Highway Patrol Border Division’s chief, Omar Watson, thanked the public for hundreds of tips that he said helped officials identify the suspects.
“The family and our community deserve closure to this horrific event,” Orange County Supervisor Don Wagner said in a statement.