Manhunt underway after 6-year-old boy is killed in road-rage freeway shooting in Orange
Police are searching for a gunman after a 6-year-old boy on his way to school was shot and killed during a road-rage attack on the 55 Freeway in Orange on Friday morning, May 21, the California Highway Patrol said.
The boy’s mother was driving a silver Chevrolet Sonic north on the 55 Freeway near Chapman Avenue at about 8 a.m. when her car was hit by gunfire, said Officer Florentino Olivera, a CHP spokesman.
The boy, in a booster seat in the back seat, was struck. He was taken to Children’s Hospital of Orange County in Orange, where he died, Olivera said. His family lives in Costa Mesa.
The woman was not reported injured. She was the only other person in the car.
The shot came from a newer white sedan, possibly a “Volkswagen wagon sedan,” that fled north on the 55 and was still being sought, Olivera said.
“It’s an isolated road-rage behavior,” he said.
Reyes and Joanna Valdivia of Orange had just dropped off their two children at school and entered the freeway when they saw the Chevrolet on the shoulder near Chapman Avenue.
“My wife noticed a lady pulling her son out and dropping to the ground with her son in her arms,” Reyes Valdivia said.
When they stopped to help, Valdivia said, the woman told them that she had “flipped off” the driver of the white sedan after the driver cut her off in the carpool lane.
The woman told Valdivia that when she moved to the right, the white sedan, with a man and woman inside, slipped in behind her and someone opened fire, Valdivia recounted.
Olivera would not specifically describe the incident.
Valdivia said there was a bullet hole in the trunk and that the boy appeared to have been shot in the back. Other good Samaritans pulled over to help, including an off-duty police officer who performed CPR on the boy, Valdivia said.
Joanna Valdivia said the woman, “walking aimlessly” on the freeway shoulder, appeared to be in shock.
“She was hysterical, screaming,” she said.
Relatives said the boy’s name was Aiden, and his 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.
“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.”
Investigators formed a line the width of the freeway, searching for evidence of the shooting, as traffic was diverted off the northbound 55 to the westbound 22 Freeway. The 55 reopened at about 11:30 a.m.
Mindy Daffron, a crisis team manager with the Orange County chapter of the Trauma Intervention Program, which provides resources to victims of crimes and fires, said her organization was assisting the family.
Olivera was emphatic that Friday’s shooting was not related to the gunfire that has traumatized freeway motorists in the past couple of months. At least 50 cars have been shot at with BB or pellet guns, leaving bullet holes and smashed windows, mostly along the 91 Freeway in Riverside and Orange counties.
Those incidents were different in that motorists did not engage one another before shots were fired, the CHP has said.
The CHP has expanded its patrols as a result of those incidents but has not announced any arrests.
Olivera asked that anyone who was traveling the northbound 55 between the 22 and Chapman from 7:55 a.m. to 8:15 a.m. on Friday who saw anything out of the ordinary or who has dashcam or cellphone video call Investigator Kevin Futrell at the CHP Santa Ana office at 714-567-6000.
A family member of the boy has set up a GoFundMe account.