Hero Bystander Helped Apprehend Suspect Accused of Throwing 5-Year-Old Off Mall of America Balcony
Police are thanking a bystander who stepped up to stop a fleeing suspect arrested on suspicion of attempted homicide after allegedly throwing a 5-year-old boy from the third floor of the Mall of America in Minnesota on Friday.
More than $500,000 had been donated by Monday morning to a GoFundMe campaign launched by a family friend to assist in the care of the boy, who “is still continuing to fight his courageous battle,” according to an update posted Sunday to that site, which describes the boy as “a strong survivor.”
PEOPLE is not identifying the boy, whose first name is Landen, by his last name at the family’s request.
The suspect, 24-year-old Emmanuel Deshawn Aranda, was known to authorities and previously had been barred for a time from the mall in 2015 for offenses that included disorderly conduct and damage to property, Bloomington Police Chief Jeff Potts said at a news conference Saturday.
“We feel confident saying that the suspect threw the child off of the third floor, but as to why he did that, it is still something that we’re looking into and trying to figure out,” he said.
“One witness who witnessed the incident tried to stop the suspect from fleeing, and so we’re very appreciative of his efforts to try to intervene and help out in a very difficult situation,” Potts said.
Video link to today's BPD press conference. We will keep you updated as this investigation progresses. Also, a heartfelt thank you to all for keeping this young victim & all involved in your thoughts https://t.co/2GXNoD8ZOB— Bloomington Police (@BPD_MN) April 13, 2019
Authorities ultimately detained the suspect at the mall’s transit station. He currently is being held in the Hennepin County Jail pending action by the Hennepin County Attorney’s Office on formal charges, the chief said.
The suspect and the victim were unknown to each other, he said.
“He is the sweetest kindest 5-year-old you will ever meet,” the family friend wrote in describing Landen on the GoFundMe page. “His soul is soft and gentle and instantly brings a smile to everybody he meets.”
Police responded to the incident at the mall at 10:17 a.m. Friday.
“There is video,” said the police chief, who added that he estimated the child had fallen about 40 feet from the third to the first level of the mall.
“As you can imagine, that’s a pretty high fall,” he said.
Potts added: “When it’s involving a young child like that, it’s pretty gut-wrenching for everybody involved.”
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He declined to speculate on the suspect’s mental health history, but noted that in the suspect’s prior brushes with law enforcement, “it looks like some of those cases were handled through the mental health court, but still ultimately he was convicted of those cases.”
In July 2015, Aranda was taken into custody after police responded to a call about a man “throwing things off of the upper level of the mall to the lower level,” according to local TV station WCCO, which cited a 2015 complaint stating Aranda initially resisted arrest and refused to give his name to police.
An employee from the Bare Minerals store went on to tell police that Aranda had “walked into the store, and without saying anything, swept his hand across a display table, knocking off and breaking two containers of lip gloss valued at $18.00 each and three shot glasses valued at $2.00 each,” the outlet reported.
Court records obtained by PEOPLE show that Aranda was convicted of fifth-degree assault and interfering with an officer of the peace, and was ordered not to return to the property for one year.
That August, Aranda was arrested without incident after police responded to a call that a man had been seen smashing computer parts at a local library, according to court documents obtained by WCCO.
In the 2015 complaint, police note that Aranda told officers he got “angry after he read something on the Facebook.”
Court records obtained by PEOPLE show that Aranda pleaded guilty to the charge of first-degree property damage and was sentenced to serve 28 days in prison, pay restitution and undergo anger management training.
In October 2015, Aranda was arrested for a third time after allegedly throwing drinks at a woman in a restaurant located inside the Mall of America, according to court documents obtained by WCCO.
According to the complaint, Aranda repeatedly asked a woman to buy him “something to eat or at least give him some money,” and after being asked to leave by a restaurant employee, he allegedly grabbed full glasses of ice water and tea, throwing them at the woman.
Court records obtained by PEOPLE show that Aranda pled guilty to fifth-degree assault and interfering with an officer of the peace.
It could not be determined if he had obtained an attorney to speak on his behalf regarding the current allegation.