A 6-year-old boy in the backseat of his mother's car on a Southern California freeway was shot to death by another driver in a road-rage attack on Friday, authorities said.
The shooting occurred around 8am on State Route 55 in the city of Orange.
Aiden Leos was being driven to school by his mother and was sitting in the rear of the family car when another motorist cut her off while travelling in the car pool lane in southeast of Los Angeles, the Daily Mail reported.
Aiden's mother was said to have given the other driver the finger in her rear view mirror, but it was a gesture that set off a deadly and tragic chain of events.
As she moved over towards another lane to her right, a gunman who is thought to have been sitting in the passenger seat of the suspect's car suddenly fired into Aiden's vehicle, striking the boy in the back.
"Mummy my tummy hurts!" the youngster is said to have cried out as he slowly bled to death.
"It was an isolated road rage incident between the mum and another driver from a white sedan," California Highway Patrol Officer Florentino Olivera told Los Angeles news station KTLA-TV.
"Not sure if there were any passengers in that white sedan but apparently there was a shot fired from that sedan into the silver car, and unfortunately, the child that was seated in the right rear seat was struck," he said.
The boy died at a hospital. The freeway was shut down for hours as about a dozen investigators walked the lanes looking for evidence.
Daily Mail reported Aiden's mother picked him up and cradled him in her arms until an off-duty police office stopped to perform CPR and the paramedics arrived.
"She had blood on her clothes and he started turning blue and that's when the ambulance took him and that was the last time my mom saw him alive," said Alexis Cloonan, the boy's sister, during a tearful family press conference on Friday evening.
"Please help us find the people that did this to my little brother. He's only six and he was so sweet. He was a very loving boy so please help us find who did this to him," Alexis pleaded through tears.
"[My mum] had to hold her little boy as he died so she is very distraught right now.
"He was a rare toddler. I just loved having him in my life."
A GoFundMe has been set up. It has raised more than US$27,000 in a matter of hours.
The CHP asked for assistance from any drivers who were on that section of freeway between 7.55am and 8.15am, especially if their vehicles have dashboard cameras.
"You can tell it was a cowardly way of doing it because they shot her in the back pretty much," said the boy's uncle John Cloonan, referring to the family car.
"You have no idea what you took from us today. You took her son away, her boy. This boy was full of love and joy and laughter.
"I hope someone knows something and that whoever did this, I hope you can see what you've done to this family. Not that it matters much now because my nephew is dead. We're never going to be full again."
- additional reporting AP, Daily Mail