The murder of 6-year-old Aiden Leos sent shockwaves through his California community. Aiden was in the back seat of his mother’s car on his way to kindergarten on May 21, 2021, when Marcus Eriz got angry because he was allegedly cut off, according to prosecutors. Eriz is accused of opening fire from a moving vehicle.before the escape.
According to statistics compiled by advocacy group Everytown for Gun Safety and released Monday, Aiden was one of 522 people killed or injured in street riots in the United States in 2021. In the midst of the pandemic, road violence has not only increased, but has also become drastically deadlier, according to the data.
In terms of both the total number of shootings and the fatality of those incidents, 2021 was by far the worst year since Everytown began tracking street rage statistics. Of the 728 road traffic incidents involving a gun in 2021, nearly two-thirds, 62%, resulted in injury or death; 131 people were killed.
Violence in 2021 surpassed 2020 when there were 702 road traffic encounters involving a firearm, 49% of which resulted in injury or death; 102 people were killed.
Everytown’s data comes from the nationwide shooting reports database maintained by the non-profit Gun Violence Archive. The group’s statistics on road violence are from 2016.
According to Sarah Burd-Sharps, Everytown’s senior director of research, street violence in the United States is unprecedented elsewhere.
“Driving will certainly be hot in many other countries. And we’ve looked at road rage in a number of countries, but only in the US is someone shot and injured or killed every 17 hours, we calculated in a road rage,” Burd-Sharps said.
Burd-Sharps pointed to ain the last two years as a possible factor that could explain the increase in road violence.
“One cannot ignore the record surge in arms sales. In the 10 years to 2019 about 13.5 million guns were sold (annually). So over a decade it was pretty stable. In 2020 that number rose to 22 million and in 2021 to 19 million, millions more guns,” Burd-Sharps said.
And the mere presence of a gun in a vehicle has been shown to make drivers more aggressive. In a 2017 study published in the Journal of Experimental Social Psychology, 60 people were randomly assigned a frustrating driving scenario, with either a gun or a tennis racket in the passenger seat. Study author Brad Bushman said the presence of a gun in the car was found to be harmful.
“We have nationally representative data showing that drivers who have guns in their vehicles are more aggressive drivers than those who don’t,” said Bushman, a professor of communications at Ohio State University.
Bushman, who served on former President Barack Obama’s Committee on Gun Violence, said research suggests people become more aggressive when they’re frustrated.
“So when people are in a car, they have a purpose, right? The goal is to probably get from point ‘A’ to point ‘B’ as quickly as possible. and having a gun in the vehicle increases the likelihood of a fatal event,” Bushman said.
That combination of frustration, aggression, and a gunshot led to the death of Aiden Leos, according to Orange County District Attorney Todd Spitzer.
“A monster with a gun murdered a little boy on his way to daycare — because he was cut off on the freeway,” Spitzer said in a statement March 30, announcing that two people will be tried in the shooting. “The callousness of this crime is unspeakable.”
Eriz, 25, was arrested last year after a 17-day manhunt. He was charged with one felony count of murder and one felony count of shooting into an occupied vehicle. His former girlfriend, 23-year-old Wynne Lee, who is accused of being in the driver’s seat at the time of the shooting, was subsequently charged with a felony count of an accessory and a misdemeanor count of possession of a firearm concealed in a vehicle.
They have each pleaded not guilty in the case.