Before going to bed, 6-year-old Aiden Leos would turn to his mother to say: “Good night and sweet dreams.”
Then he would turn to his sister, Alexis, saying: “Good night and sweet dreams.”
“You wanted to make sure everyone was okay before you close your eyes and ended your day,” Joanna Cloonan said to her son at an open-casket memorial service in Southern California on Saturday.
Aiden was fatally shot in the back of the car while his mother drove him to kindergarten on May 21 in a suspected road rage encounter. He was rushed to Children’s Hospital of Orange County where he was pronounced dead.
According to accounts from the mother and witnesses who stopped to help her, another car cut her off, she responded with a hand gesture and the car slipped in behind her and someone inside fired a shot through the rear of her car.
Cloonan said Aiden wanted to be an entomologist even though he could barely pronounce it.
“The joy he brought into our lives was insurmountable,” Cloonan said of her son. “My heart melted every time he laughed and did the silly things he would do, such as breaking out into full dance mode every time he heard a song or when he would talk in silly voices.”
Anonymous donors, government officials and community members have all donated to the reward for information leading to the arrest of the shooter. The reward grew from $450,000 to $500,000 on Friday, according to Orange County District Attorney Todd Spitzer.
The California Highway Patrol identified a vehicle of interest as a white 2018 or 2019 Volkswagen Golf SportWagen with non-tinted windows. Authorities said the vehicle was occupied by a female driver and a male passenger.
“I want nothing more than to find justice,” Cloonan said during the service. “Although it won’t bring you back into our arms it makes me outraged that such a precious, beautiful soul did not get the opportunity to continue developing into a young man and starting a family of his own one day while accomplishing his heart’s desires.”
Aiden’s sister also spoke during the memorial, recalling tender moments the two had. She said he liked spending time with her even if she was just doing homework or playing video games. She said she’ll hold on to every moment and cherish them for the rest of her life.
“I don’t get to play ‘Mario Kart’ with my little brother or take him to the park ever again, and that breaks my heart,” she said. “Because of the monsters that took Aiden’s life, I will never get to hug my brother again.
“We were supposed to grow up together and help each other through life.”
Contributing: The Associated Press.