A man accused of throwing a 5-year-old boy from a balcony at the Mall of America on Friday, April 12, had been "looking for someone to kill," authorities say.
Emmanuel Aranda, 24, has been charged with attempted premeditated first-degree murder and is set to make his first court appearance on Tuesday afternoon.
On Friday, the boy and his mother were standing outside the Rain Forest Cafe at the Bloomington, Minnesota, mall, along with friends, when a stranger approached them, according to charging documents. He came close, and the boy's mother asked if they were in his way and should move.
Instead, authorities say he grabbed her son and threw him off the third-floor balcony, a nearly 40-foot fall to the ground below.
Authorities said that Aranda had tried to flee on foot after throwing the boy, but was later apprehended and was taken to the Hennepin County Jail. Witnesses and security footage helped identify him as the alleged perpetrator. When Bloomington police questioned him, he told them "repeatedly" he had "come to the mall that day looking for someone to kill, but it did not 'work out.' " He said he had planned to kill an adult before ultimately choosing the young boy.
The boy remains in critical condition, having suffered multiple fractured bones and "massive head trauma," according to charging documents. A person who claims to be a friend of the family set up a GoFundMe to raise money for medical care that has raised more than $660,000. The page describes the victim as a boy "full of energy and life" who loves to play soccer and spend time with his family.
"This crime has shocked the community," Hennepin County Attorney Mike Freeman said in a statement. "That a child, with his mother, at a safe public area like a mall, could be violently attacked for no reason is chilling for everyone. Our victim advocates are working with the family during this very difficult time for them. We charged Mr. Aranda with the most severe crime that the evidence allowed."
Charging documents name a litany of Aranda's previous offenses and incidents at the famed Minnesota mall, which draws 40 million visitors a year. He indicated to investigators that "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."
In one July 2015 incident, police said Aranda threw objects from the upper level of the mall and destroyed merchandise at a beauty display, and resisted arrest. He was arrested on three misdemeanor charges - property damage, disorderly conduct and interfering with a peace officer.
That October, he violated a no-trespass order and approached a woman waiting outside a restaurant, records show. He asked her to buy something, but she laughed him off and said she would not. Then, Aranda followed her inside and sat at an adjacent table, where he continued to make requests for her and a friend to buy him something, or give him money. When management intervened, he grew aggressive and threw water and glass of tea at the woman. The incident led to his arrest on six misdemeanor charges.
According to Bloomington Police Chief Jeffrey Potts, some of his cases had been handed by a mental-health court, but he did not specify which ones at a Saturday press conference.
Aranda had been banned from the mall in previous years, but did not currently have an active ban against him when he allegedly tried to kill the boy on Friday.
In the charging documents released Monday, authorities said he had a warrant for his arrest from Illinois for assault, and a conviction for property damage from Hennepin County, Minnesota.
Prosecutors say they are pursing aggressive charges due to "particular cruelty" to the victim.
"I just hope that little guy turns out okay," Michael Baumann, who witnessed the boy being thrown from the balcony, told local TV station ABC 5. "I just, you wonder . . . how could anybody do that?"
This article was written by Kayla Epstein, a reporter for The Washington Post.