A man has admitted to throwing a 5-year-old boy from a third-floor balcony at the Mall of America.
Emmanuel Aranda, 24, pleaded guilty Tuesday morning in Hennepin County court to attempted premeditated first-degree murder in connection with the April attack at the mall. That means he’s admitting that he knew the 40-foot plunge could have killed the child. After the fall, the victim spent weeks fighting for his life in a Minneapolis hospital with head trauma and multiple broken bones.
The plea deal calls for a sentence of 19 years behind bars.
The victim’s family released a statement in late April saying he was doing better.
"Our son is now alert and conscious and is no longer in critical condition,” the boy’s family said in a statement released by their attorney, Stephen Tillitt. They added that his road to recovery “remains long” but “we are assured to make it through.”
The statement identifies the child only as Landon.
On Monday, the family said he continues to heal, the Associated Press reports.
Police say Aranda told them he went to the mall "looking for someone to kill" and chose the boy at random. A complaint, obtained by the Associated Press, points to perceived rejection by women as a possible motive.
"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, and the rejection caused him to lash out and be aggressive," the complaint said.
He has a history of violence at that particular mall.
According to court records, Aranda was involved in two previous incidents at the Mall of America in 2015. In at least one of those cases, he got in trouble for “throwing things off of the upper level of the mall to the lower level,” according to court documents obtained by CBS station WCCO.
He was convicted of fifth-degree assault and was banned from the Mall of America for a year following that incident. He was ordered to undergo psychological evaluation or treatment.
Paul Sellers, the public defender appointed to represent Aranda, said his client has been in mental health court before. He has urged the state legislature and those who are calling for aggressive retribution to focus on mental health issues.
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