Joanna Cloonan is mourning the loss of her 6-year-old son, Aiden Leos, publicly for the first time since he was shot and killed during what police are calling a road rage shooting on a highway in Orange, California, on Friday.
Cloonan recalled the events to NBC4 Los Angeles, explaining that she had been driving her son to school around 8 a.m. when a white Volkswagen cut her off. There was a female driver and a male passenger in the vehicle, she said.
Aiden was sitting in his booster seat in the rear passenger side of the car when a bullet went through the trunk and struck him.
“As I was merging away from the carpool lane, I heard a loud noise, and I heard my son say, ‘Ow,’ and I pulled the car over as soon as possible, and he had been shot," she said. "I tried to save him by calling 911, but he was losing a lot of blood."
"He just didn’t deserve that. No one deserves that," she added.
Cloonan, who said she's struggled to get out of bed since the loss, also shared some details about Aiden's personality.
"It almost felt like he wasn’t human sometimes because he was unbelievably kind and sweet," she said. "I want my son to be remembered for the beautiful soul that he was."
Aiden is survived by his mother, sister and father, who was too distraught to speak out.
"He was just a blessing, pure blessing. To have that taken from us, the loss is unspeakable," added Aiden's grandmother Mary Cloonan.
Brandon Cloonan, Aiden's 10-year-old cousin, also spoke with reporters.
“I know when people die from age, they lived a good life, but for someone to only be 6 and someone that special to me get murdered by a gun, it just hurts me," he said.
Aiden’s sister, Alexis Cloonan, recalled the heartbreaking moment her mother had to face alone.
“She didn’t know that it was a gunshot that was fired until she heard my little brother saying that his stomach hurt, and that’s when she went and grabbed him,” Alexis said. “She had to hold him while he was dying. No mother should have to go through that.”
Police are asking drivers who were nearby at the time or anyone who may have dashcam footage to come forward to help find the shooter.
Since Friday, members of the community have banded together to remember Aiden, creating a memorial on a highway overpass decorated with candles, stuffed animals, balloons and flowers.
“I just want them to know what they took from the world today, what they took from my family,” Alexis said. “A little child of happiness. We’re never going to be full again.”