BLOOMINGTON, Minn. — The family of a 5-year-old boy thrown from a third-floor balcony at the Mall of America last week says he is making "small steps" as he recovers from his devastating injuries.
Landen Hoffman was shopping with his mother and friends around 10:15 a.m. April 12 when Emmanuel Deshawn Aranda, 24, of Minneapolis, is accused of picking the boy up and hurling him over a railing to the first floor nearly 40 feet below. Aranda tried to run, but police, with help from witnesses, found him on a light rail train at the mall and took him into custody.
"The family doesn't know him and are completely clueless as to why this monster would target their family with this heinous act of violence," a GoFundMe page set up to help with Landen's medical bills states. As of Friday morning, the page had raised more than $870,000 of its $1 million goal.
Landen, who suffered broken arms and legs and significant head trauma, was initially in critical condition, according to the criminal complaint against Aranda. His condition has since stabilized, but he has a long road to recovery, the GoFundMe page reads.
"(His) condition is again similar to previous days. Another peaceful night of sleep -- small steps towards the healing process. Each new day is a good day," the page read Thursday.
“Landen's recovery is expected to be ongoing for a long time. While it’s hard to estimate costs, this will change everything for their family and require much of their time and focus.”
Aranda is charged with attempted premeditated first-degree murder, according to Hennepin County Attorney Mike Freeman. Aranda is being held in the Hennepin County Jail in lieu of $2 million bond.
"This crime has shocked the community," Freeman said in a news release. "That a child, with his mother at a safe public area like a mall, could be violently attacked for no reason is chilling for everyone. Our victim advocates are working with the family during this very difficult time for them. We charged Mr. Aranda with the most severe crime that the evidence allowed."
Bloomington police Chief Jeff Potts said during a news conference Saturday that Aranda was cooperative with detectives. The criminal complaint indicates that Aranda confessed to committing the brazen assault.
Read the criminal complaint against Emmanuel Aranda below.
“This is a horrific situation,” Potts said. “The family and this child are in our thoughts and prayers. I know the family appreciates all the thoughts and prayers they can get on this case.”
The Hoffman family issued a statement through Freeman’s office showing appreciation for the outpouring of support from the community but requesting privacy as Landen recovers from his life-threatening injuries.
Mall of America officials also praised the outpouring of support.
"We are grateful for the efforts of all the first responders involved -- including guests and tenants -- for their immediate actions and the outpouring of concern shown by so many for this young child and his family," a statement read. "For those who have left gifts, flowers and messages of love at the mall, we thank you. Please know we will keep these items safe and handle them according to the family's wishes."
The criminal complaint says Aranda told police he had gone to the mall on April 11 intending to kill an adult, but that it did not "work out." He returned to the mall the next day.
“He said he planned to kill an adult because they usually stand near the balcony, but he chose the victim instead,” the document reads.
Aranda told investigators he chose to kill out of frustration over years of rejection from the opposite sex.
"Defendant indicated he had been coming to the mall for several years and had made efforts to talk to women in the mall, but had been rejected," the complaint says. "The rejection caused him to lash out and be aggressive."
Aranda admitted he knew what he did was wrong.
"Defendant acknowledged repeatedly in his interview that he had planned and intended to kill someone at the mall that day, and that he was aware that what he was doing was wrong," the document says.
According to the criminal complaint, surveillance camera footage shows Aranda walking on the third floor of the mall and looking over the balcony several times before approaching Landen and his mother.
Landen’s mother told detectives she saw Aranda approach and stand very close to her and her son, the newspaper reported. She asked him if he needed them to move.
"Without warning, defendant picked up the victim and threw him off the third floor balcony in front of (Landen's mother) and several other witnesses, including children," the complaint states.
Witnesses told the Minneapolis Star Tribune they heard screaming after the boy went over the railing.
"Oh my God! Pray for my son!" Landen's mother begged, witnesses told the newspaper.
Potts said Saturday that Aranda previously was arrested at the Mall of America. Officers were called there in July 2015 after Aranda was seen throwing an object from the third floor.
“When the officers tried to speak with him, he became … he was not cooperative,” Potts said.
Aranda was charged in that incident with obstruction, disorderly conduct and damage to property, the chief said.
Watch the update from Bloomington police Chief Jeff Potts below.
He was also accused of trespassing at the mall previously after he threw a glass of water in a woman’s face and destroyed property, the criminal complaint says. It was not clear if that was the same incident Potts spoke about during his news conference.
Aranda had been banned from the mall, but apparently ignored the ban.
Aranda next came in contact with Bloomington police officers at a local restaurant, where he refused to pay his bill, Potts said. In a third 2015 incident, Aranda was accused of throwing a glass at a worker at a different restaurant.
He was charged with fifth-degree assault, trespassing, disorderly conduct and obstructing legal process in the third case. That was the last contact Bloomington officers had with Aranda prior to the alleged assault at the mall last week.
that Aranda was also previously arrested for smashing computers at a public library in Minneapolis. At that time, he told arresting officers he has “anger issues,” the newspaper said.
Court records indicate Aranda has a string of arrests and convictions in Minnesota, as well as charges of assault and theft in Illinois,
. The criminal complaint indicates he had an outstanding warrant for assault in Illinois.
Judges have repeatedly ordered him to undergo mental health treatment, as well as to abstain from alcohol and drugs, the newspaper reported.
Prosecutors are taking Aranda’s latest Mall of America attack very seriously.
"The state intends to pursue an aggravated sentence based on particular cruelty to the victim, particular vulnerability of the victim and the commission of the act in the presence of other children and the victim's mother," the criminal complaint says.
The Mall of America website states that the facility "holds itself to the highest standards" when it comes to its security. It has 175 security officers on the payroll.
"We pride ourselves on our high caliber officers, training and forward-thinking attitude," the webpage reads. "We take a holistic approach with our industry leading programs and practices which include bike patrol, K-9 units, special operations plain clothes officers, a state-of-the art dispatch center, parental escort policy, crisis planning and lockdown drills.
“We are a unique property and we protect it as such.”
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