A 5-year-old Woodbury boy remained hospitalized with critical injuries Saturday, one day after he was tossed over a third-floor railing at the Mall of America, allegedly by a stranger with a history of mental health problems.
The boy is "still very much with us and fighting," according to a family friend who set up a GoFundMe page that raised more than $415,000 as of Sunday afternoon. The donations will help pay for his medical and rehabilitation costs, which will include multiple surgeries, organizers said.
The boy's parents declined to comment Saturday, pleading for privacy. Creators of the GoFundMe page wrote that the boy, whose first name is Landen, is "the sweetest kindest 5 year old you will ever meet. His soul is soft and gentle and instantly brings a smile to everybody he meets."
After fleeing the chaotic scene Friday morning, Emmanuel Deshawn Aranda, 24, was taken into custody Friday at the mall's transit station and is being held in the Hennepin County jail on suspicion of attempted murder. Charges are expected by noon Monday, authorities said.
At a news conference Saturday, Bloomington Police Chief Jeff Potts said police don't believe the suspect knew the family or the boy. "As to why he did that, we're just trying to figure it out," Potts said.
Witness reports and security cameras played a role in Aranda's swift arrest, he said.
Landen was being treated at Children's Hospital Minneapolis, where his parents were with him Saturday.
"This is a horrific situation," Potts said, adding that the family appreciates "all the thoughts and prayers from the public."
Aranda has a long string of arrests and convictions for misdemeanor criminal offenses in recent years, court records show. At the time of Friday's attack, there was an active warrant for his arrest stemming from a 2017 assault case in Hennepin County.
In 2015, Aranda was issued a trespass notice ordering him to stay away from the Mall of America. He ignored the order and in October of that year was arrested after harassing and panhandling two female diners at a restaurant and throwing drinking glasses at diners, according to a criminal complaint.
Aranda was convicted of fifth-degree assault, trespassing and interfering with a police officer. He was sentenced to 30 days in the Hennepin County workhouse and ordered to get a mental health evaluation. He was also ordered a second time to stay away from the Mall of America.
Potts said no-trespassing orders are typically issued for six months to a year, and that those issued in 2015 had likely expired.
In August 2015, Aranda was arrested for smashing five computers at the Sumner Library in north Minneapolis. According to a police statement, he told officers that he became angry after reading something on Facebook.
"He said he has some anger issues and told the officer that it does not happen all the time," the police statement said.
A month later, in September, Aranda was back at the Sumner Library, harassing a female library employee. According to a police statement, the woman called police from her car in the library parking lot because Aranda had been bothering her. Aranda admitted he was stalking the woman and knew where she lived. He also admitted that he knew he was breaking an order to stay away from the library for a year.
His case was assigned to Criminal Mental Health Court. He was discharged from custody six months later and placed on probation.
Aranda also has a felony conviction for first-degree damage to property.
In his most recent court cases, he gave his address as a Minneapolis shelter home for those recovering from drug and alcohol addiction. In other court cases, he gave his address as the Salvation Army Harbor Light Center in Minneapolis. Public records show he came to Minnesota from the Chicago area, where family members still reside. They could not be reached for comment.
'It was horrific'
The Mall of America has been the site of a few high-profile crimes since it opened in 1992. However, Potts said that it is generally a safe place.
In July 2018, an eerily similar incident occurred in Apple Valley, when an 18-year-old man picked up an 8-year-old boy he did not know and threw him over the rail on a waterslide, sending the boy plummeting more than 30 feet to the concrete below. The boy recovered, but required several surgeries. Roman Adams, of Maple Grove, was charged with third-degree assault, but later was found incompetent to stand trial "due to reasons of mental illness," court records say.
Friday's incident occurred just after 10 a.m. Witness Tina Hailey of Burnsville had just rounded the corner on the mall's first floor near Macy's when she heard the mother screaming, "Oh, my God! Pray for my son!" She appeared to be in shock, Hailey said.
Hailey said the mother's anguished screams and the sight of those working to revive the boy will haunt her for a long time. "It was horrific," she said.
'Long road to recovery'
For all who witnessed the incident, including law enforcement officers, "this is a tough one," Potts said. "When it's involving a young child like that, it's pretty gut-wrenching."
On the boy's GoFundMe page, organizers wrote that Landen, who was visiting the mall with his mother and another child when he was attacked, "is full of energy and life and enjoys soccer, playing with friends and family and playing hockey with his brother and sister. … [His] family is always so generous to others, they give without expecting in return and are the type of family you always hope live next door."
He is likely to survive, they said, adding, however, that Landen "has a very long road to recovery ahead of him. … He has many surgeries ahead in his life to try to get back to a normal life for a young, vibrant boy."