Man Threw 5-Year-Old Off Balcony at Mall of America After 'Looking for Someone to Kill'

A view from the inside of the Mall of America shows a roped off section where the incident occurred
ABC News

A tragic scene unfolded at the Mall of America in Minnesota on April 12, when witnesses say a man either threw or pushed a 5-year-old from the third level onto the first floor. The boy miraculously survived but remains in the hospital in life-threatening condition after the terrifying 40-foot drop. In the meantime, the community remains stunned and saddened over the senseless act.

  • The suspect, identified as 24-year-old Emmanuel Deshawn Aranda, was apprehended in the mall's transit station shortly after running from the scene.

    But investigators were left scratching their heads as to why Aranda, who had no prior relationship with the child, would do such a thing.

    "(Through) our investigative work and witnesses that we've spoken to, we feel confident saying that the suspect threw the child off of the third floor," Police Chief Jeff Potts said Saturday. "But as to why he did that, is still something we're looking into and trying to figure out."

    On Monday, that motive finally became clear -- though it's perhaps of little solace to the boy's family.

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  • When speaking to police, Aranda admitted he had gone to the Mall of America on Friday "looking for someone to kill."

    "Defendant indicated 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," a criminal complaint obtained by CBS News explained.

    Even more chilling was the confession that he had come to the mall a day earlier to kill someone, but that it apparently "didn't work out." 

    According to the complaint, the boy's mother told police she was standing in a group of people outside the Rainforest Cafe restaurant when Aranda began getting very close to them. When she asked if they were in his way, Aranda picked up the boy without warning and threw him off the balcony, as his mother and other shoppers watched in horror.

  • Witnesses say the child's mother was screaming frantically in the moments after her son was thrown from the balcony.

    "She was screaming, 'Everyone pray, everyone pray. Oh, my God, my baby, someone threw him over the edge,'" said witness Brian Johnson, speaking with WCCO.

    The terror and anguish she must have felt in those moments are almost too difficult to comprehend -- and even now, as the boy remains in critical condition at a nearby hospital, it's hard to imagine just how his family is coping with such senseless violence.

    Although the family remains by his bedside, Potts said Saturday that they are asking for positive thoughts.

    "The child is still alive, he's still receiving care, and I think we're just asking for thoughts and prayers for that child to recover," he shared.

  • This isn't the first time Aranda has had a violent, public outburst. In fact, he was banned from the Mall of America multiple times before.

    Court records obtained by WCCO show that Aranda was arrested in July 2015 after throwing items from a store over an upper level balcony and onto a a lower one. Just a few months later, CNN reports, he was arrested again after throwing glasses of ice water and tea on a woman who refused his requests to buy him food in a mall restaurant and getting in a physical altercation with the manager.

    But it doesn't end there.

    In August of 2015, Aranda was arrested after smashing computers at a Minneapolis library, where he caused $5,000 worth of damage. His explanation? That he grew "angry after reading something on Facebook."

    Court documents note that Aranda admitted he has "some anger issues" but insisted that it's not something that happens all the time.

    Sadly, Friday's attack proved that statement to be the far from the truth.

  • While the boy's family continues to pray for his recovery, Aranda has been charged with attempted premeditated first-degree murder.

    Aranda was due in court Tuesday afternoon, where prosecutors are expected to request his bail be set at $2 million, in hopes he remains in jail until his trial. Additionally, WCCO reports that prosecutors intend to seek a sentence that would take into account "the aggravating factors of particular cruelty, including the vulnerability of the boy and committing the violent act in front of the boy's mother and other children."