A Minneapolis man said he went to the Mall of America on Friday "looking for someone to kill" before throwing a 5-year-old boy nearly 40 feet over a third-floor railing in an attack that shocked the nation.
Emmanuel Deshawn Aranda, 24, was charged in Hennepin County District Court on Monday with attempted first-degree premeditated murder. He is being held in lieu of $2 million bail and is expected to make his first court appearance Tuesday. The boy, named Landen, fell about 40 feet to a stone floor. According to the criminal complaint, medical responders at the scene said his injuries included fractures in his arms and legs. He was bleeding from the head and had massive head trauma.
He is being treated at Children's Hospital in Minneapolis, where his condition Monday was listed as critical.
Aranda confessed to the attack, according to the criminal complaint.
"Defendant … said that he was the one who had thrown the 5-year-old Victim from the balcony and fled," the complaint said. "He said he formed a plan to kill someone at the Mall" on the day before the actual attack, but it didn't work out that day.
Aranda told investigators he returned to the mall on Friday.
"He said he planned to kill an adult, because they usually stand near the balcony, but he chose the Victim instead," the complaint said.
Aranda told investigators he had been going to the Bloomington 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 to be aggressive."
Aranda admitted to police that he knew what he did was wrong, the complaint said. Surveillance video showed Aranda walking on the third floor and looking over the balcony several times before approaching the victim and his mother, the complaint said.
The victim's mother told police that she and her son were with a friend of hers and her friend's child outside the Rainforest Cafe when Aranda approached them. The victim's mother said Aranda came very close to them, and she asked him if the group should move.
"Without warning, Defendant picked up the Victim and threw him off the third floor balcony," the complaint said.
Aranda, who has roots in the Chicago area, has a felony conviction for first-degree property damage as well as a long string of misdemeanor arrests and convictions. He also has had arrests in Illinois, including on charges of assault and theft. The disposition of those cases is not clear from Illinois state records.
In a previous Minnesota criminal case, Aranda told police that "he has some anger issues" after being arrested for allegedly smashing computers at a Minneapolis public library, according to court records.
In 2015, he was arrested at the Mall of America after a police officer saw him throwing items from the mall's upper level. Aranda was ordered to stay away from the mall for a year, but he ignored the order. He was arrested at the mall weeks later for aggressively panhandling and harassing two women and for throwing drinking glasses at diners in a mall restaurant.
Court files show that judges have repeatedly ordered Aranda to undergo mental health counseling, abstain from alcohol and drugs and take prescribed medications.
In Friday's attack, witnesses said they heard screams around 10:15 a.m. Witnesses told police that a man had shoved or thrown a child over the third-level railing.
"Oh, my God! Pray for my son!" the boy's mother cried out.
The mother screamed uncontrollably and appeared to be in shock, one witness said.
Aranda ran from the scene down to the ground level and into the mall's transit station, where he was arrested.
The mall administration declined to comment on its security procedures Monday.
"We recognize there is a lot of interest in telling a larger security story, however our focus continues to remain on the child and his family and we want to respect their wishes for privacy," a spokesperson wrote in an unsigned e-mail.
The mall's web page says that its security "holds itself to the highest standards and is a nationally recognized department staffed with over 175 highly trained personnel."
It uses bike patrols, K-9 units, plainclothes officers and regular lockdown drills among other protocols.
Michael Rozin, president of Rozin Security in Minneapolis, said based on his experience around the country, people should feel confident about going to the MOA.
"Mall of America has an above-and-beyond, real sophisticated security apparatus," Rozin said.
Following Friday's attack on the boy, questions have arisen as to whether video surveillance with facial recognition might have alerted security when Aranda entered. Rozin said that's not realistic.
While more companies are using facial recognition, he said, the technology is unable to reliably identify people as they enter places like the mall. The software relies largely on a flat camera angle to correctly identify people. Mall cameras are placed above busy, wide entry spaces, which are not designed to optimize facial recognition.
Besides, Rozin said, the mall's no-trespass order against Aranda expired three years ago, so he would have been allowed in.
The mall's security guards have strong behavior-threat detection protocols, he said. That said, the only way someone like Aranda might be intercepted is if he were to draw the attention of a security officer who had prior experience with him, Rozin said.
Staff writers Rochelle Olson and Dan Browning contributed to this report.
John Reinan • 612-673-7402