Bloomington, Minnesota: Emmanuel Deshawn Aranda, the man who pleaded guilty to throwing a 5-year-old boy off a balcony at the Mall of America was sentenced Monday to 19 years in prison. Emmanuel Aranda pleaded guilty last month to one count of attempted premeditated murder for throwing the child from a third-floor balcony on April 12.
The boy survived the 39-foot fall but suffered significant head trauma and broken bones. According to the family, his recovery has been slow, with several procedures in the weeks since the assault. The boy, identified in court only as Landen, needed multiple surgeries for head trauma and other injuries. No update on his recovery was provided in court Monday, though his parents described it as miraculous.
Aranda told investigators he went to the mall “looking for someone to kill.” According to the complaint, the 24-year-old had tried unsuccessfully to talk to women in the mall but their rejection “caused him to lash out and be aggressive.” He said he had planned to kill an adult before choosing the child instead.
In a victim impact statement, the parents of the boy decried Aranda’s actions as “evil” but said they forgive him.
“Your act was evil and selfish, you chose to listen to the worst parts of yourself that day,” the boy’s father said in a statement read by prosecutor Cheri Ann Townsend. “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.”
“You chose to think about yourself that day, what you were feeling and wanted to do to someone else,” Landen’s mother said in a separate statement read by the prosecutor. “I’m sad you chose anger and hatred.”
Aranda’s attorney, Paul Sellers, did not raise a mental illness defense. Aranda did acknowledge in response to a question from the judge that he had been in mental health court previously and completed required treatment. No further details were provided.
He had two past convictions for assaults at the mall, both in 2015, and had been banned from the property at one point. Court records showed Aranda was ordered to undergo psychological evaluation or treatment after those assaults.
Aranda’s mother, Becky Aranda, and family friend Jessica Harris told reporters afterward that he had been in and out of mental health treatment while growing up in Chicago, with frequently changing diagnoses, including attention deficit disorder, depression, autism and schizophrenia. They said that as far as they know, he was homeless before the attack.
“We’re trying to figure out what happened, what led him to do this,” she said. “We need answers as much as everybody else.”
Mary Moriarty, the chief public defender for Hennepin County, said afterward that her office must honor its duty of confidentiality to its clients. She indicated defense attorneys were following Emmanuel Aranda’s wishes in resolving the case quickly.
“One of our jobs, one of our goals as public defenders is to build a trusting relationship with the client and to try to achieve what the client’s goals are,” she said.