The man who walked into the Mall of America in Minnesota “looking for someone to kill” and then threw a 5-year-old boy off a third-floor balcony was sentenced Monday to nearly 20 years in prison.
Emmanuel Aranda, 24, of Minneapolis, pleaded guilty last month to attempted first-degree murder in the April attack. The child, identified only as Landen, survived the 40-foot fall but suffered massive head trauma and fractured bones in his arms and legs. His family has said he’s still recovering.
Landen’s parents didn’t attend the hearing, but they said in statements addressed to Aranda and read aloud in court that they forgive him and are praying for him.
“You chose to think about yourself that day, what you were feeling and wanted to do to someone else,” Landen’s mother wrote. “I’m sad you chose anger and hatred. Something really bad must have happened to you for you to want to do this to a sweet, innocent little boy. I’m sorry for whatever you’ve gone through. I hope God can save you and show you what His love is all about someday.”
Aranda listened with his head bowed and, according to local reports, declined to make a statement of his own, offering neither reason nor remorse for a seemingly random act of violence that shook Minnesota.
“Your act was evil and selfish, you chose to listen to the worst parts of yourself that day,” Landen’s father said in his statement. “You chose evil over good and chose to take your hate and hurt out on my precious boy. That is where your impact on us stops, you will take nothing more from us.”
After her son was sentenced, Becky Aranda asked for forgiveness on his behalf and told reporters that he has a history of mental health challenges and has received diagnoses of autism, depression and schizophrenia. But she said his family has never been sure what exactly was ailing him.
“We just know that this illness would flare up,” Becky Aranda said, according to the Minneapolis Star Tribune. “He would be fine most of the time … and all of a sudden, out of the blue it would just kick in out of nowhere.”
But Cheri Townsend, assistant attorney for Hennepin County, said Aranda’s actions were planned and deliberate, the Star Tribune reported.
“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,” police wrote in his charging documents.
Aranda’s 19-year sentence is the maximum punishment the state’s guidelines recommend for the crime. When he was charged, records recounted a string of his previous offenses at the famed mall in Bloomington, Minn., which attracts 40 million visitors a year.
In July 2015, he was arrested there on charges of property damage, disorderly conduct and interfering with a peace officer after throwing objects from the mall’s upper level that destroyed a beauty display below.
Less than four months later, he returned to the mall, violating a no-trespass order. He approached a woman who was waiting outside a restaurant and asked her to buy him something, records show. She declined. Aranda then followed her into the restaurant, sat at a nearby table, and continued to ask her to buy him something or give him money. He became aggressive after restaurant staff intervened, and he threw water and a glass of tea at the woman. He was later arrested on six misdemeanor charges.
He also had a warrant for his arrest stemming from an assault in Illinois, police said.
Landen’s family has remained private, making statements only through lawyers and a public relations firm, but an online fundraiser has charted the boy’s recovery over the past several weeks — and has raised more than $1 million for his medical expenses.
In a recent post to the page, his parents said that Landen had to undergo additional surgeries but that all the prayers and well-wishes were working: “He is recovering, and his spirit is strong — but there is still a long road ahead.”
Katie Mettler and Kayla Epstein contributed to this report.