US

Man Who Allegedly Threw Boy Off Mall of America Balcony Has ‘Mental Problems:’ Uncle

By Zachary Stieber

The 24-year-old man who police said admitted to hurling a 5-year-old boy from a third-story balcony at the Mall of America has had serious mental problems for a long time, his uncle said.

Emmanuel Deshawn Aranda was arrested on April 12 and charged with first-degree attempted premeditated murder on April 15 after telling police officers that he went to the mall on Friday to kill someone, eventually approaching Landen Hoffmann and Landen’s mother. He picked the boy up and threw him over the balcony.

Police officials said that the boy fell approximately 39 feet before smashing into the floor.

Aranda said that he was motivated to kill because women at the mall kept rejecting his advances over the past several years.

Aranda’s uncle, Francis Aranda, said that the suspect has a long history of violent tendencies dating back to childhood, even with his own family.

“He has a serious mental problem, he was diagnosed as a child,” Aranda told KTSP. In 2014, for instance, before his nephew moved to Minnesota, he was charged with multiple crimes, including assault, after he threatened to slit a restaurant employee’s neck during a dispute in the Chicago area.

Aranda said that the suspect’s mother tried to get him help for his mental issues.

“My nephew he had mental problems for a long time, for a very long time,” the uncle told WCCO. “He needed help for a really long time.”

The uncle, who lives in Philadelphia, said that what happened was “gut-wrenching” and that he couldn’t believe what his nephew did. “I’m at a loss for words,” he added.

He said that his family’s focus is on the victim and the victim’s family.

“We’re all praying for that mom because we can’t imagine what she’s going through. We just can’t imagine what she’s going through. Praying for her and her family period. We’re doing that,” Aranda said.

But he also said that he hopes his nephew doesn’t go to jail.

“We are going to pray for that baby because what happened is so unfortunate, but it’s going to bring light to mental illness, I hope he doesn’t go to jail, he needs help,” he told KTSP.

Previous Charges

In addition to the Chicago area incident, Emmanuel Aranda was charged in a number of incidents in recent years.

Aranda was arrested on July 4, 2015, after he matched the description of a man who witnesses said was throwing things from the mall’s upper level, according to court records obtained by KARE 11. Officers said he resisted arrest and refused to give them his name. He was also accused of breaking glasses in a store that day.

In October 2015, witnesses told officers that Aranda approached a woman who was waiting for a restaurant to open and asked her to buy him something. When she refused, he allegedly threw a glass of water in her face and a glass of tea that hit her leg. He was already under a trespass notice from the July incident and was banned from the mall until July 4, 2016.

Aranda was convicted of fifth-degree assault, trespass, and interfering with a police officer, according to records obtained by the Minneapolis Star-Tribune. He was sentenced to 30 days in the Hennepin County workhouse and ordered to get a mental health evaluation; the results of that evaluation, if it happened, have not been disclosed.

Aranda was also arrested for smashing computers at the Sumner Library in Minneapolis in August 2015. He told officers that he grew angry after reading something on Facebook, leading him to smash five computers.

“He said he has some anger issues and told the officer that it does not happen all the time,” the police statement said at the time.

The next month, officers responded after a female librarian called the police because she said Aranda was harassing her. According to the police statement, Aranda said he was stalking the woman and knew where she lived; he also said he knew he was breaking an order to not go to the library for a year.

The case was assigned to a mental health court. Aranda was discharged from custody six months later and placed on probation.

In the six months leading up to the Mall of America attack, Aranda was charged six times with riding public transit without paying.

Prosecutors also said in court filings on Monday that Aranda was wanted on a warrant for assault in the state of Illinois as well as for a conviction for first-degree damage to property in Hennepin County in Minnesota.