MINNEAPOLIS, Minn. — A Minnesota man who threw a five-year-old boy over a third-floor balcony at the Mall of America earlier this year has been sentenced to prison. The child’s parents wrote in victim impact statements that while the man “chose to listen to the devil that day” and “intended evil,” their son “is a witness to God’s divine interaction in our lives” as “the whole world is seeing God move in this little boy.”
Emmanuel Aranda, 24, was sentenced to 19 years behind bars after pleading guilty last month to first-degree attempted murder.
According to reports, Aranda went to the Mall of America on April 12 “looking for someone to kill” as he was angry about the rejection he had received from women. Not finding a man to take his aggression out on, he soon grabbed a small child standing with his mother outside of the Rainforest Cafe “and threw him off the third floor balcony.”
Landen Hoffmann fell to the concrete floor 40 feet below, suffering significant head trauma, bleeding and broken bones. Miraculously, he survived.
The child has “a long road ahead” to recovery, according to a GoFundMe page, needing additional surgeries and facing complications surrounding his injuries, but is steadily improving. The page has raised over $1 million for Landen’s medical expenses.
On Monday, prosecutor Cheri Townsend read Hoffman’s parents’ emotional impact statements to the court before Justice Jeannice Reding handed down the sentence. Both said that they forgave Aranda and that they hoped he would find salvation in Christ.
“You chose to think about yourself that day, what you were feeling and wanted to do to someone else. I’m sad you chose anger and hatred,” the child’s mother wrote. “You chose to listen to the devil that day. I don’t get to judge you or hate you. Instead I am full of God’s love, and I have overwhelming joy and peace in my body as I sit and watch my boy heal in miraculous ways right in from of my eyes.”
“The whole world is seeing God move in this little boy that I get to call mine,” she said. “The devil tried to take him out, but God saves.”
“On what was a normal day for us — a day of fun and playing, a day meant for good — you chose to commit a horrific violent act, an act intended for harm, an act intended to kill and destroy,” his father said. “You intended evil that day, but God works all for good. Landen, who was a nameless child to you, is not a name forgotten or unknown to God. Landen is a witness to God’s divine interaction in our lives for all the world to see.”
“You chose evil over good, and chose to take your hate and hurt out on my precious boy. That is where your impact on us stops. You will take nothing more from us,” he continued. “I do want you to know that I forgive you, because it is what God calls me to do, and holding hate only harms me and I will not allow that. While I want the maximum punishment for you in this life, I do want you to know that there is a God who does love you and seeks to save you.”
Mr. Hoffmann then quoted from John 3:16.
“This is the grace that our merciful, loving, and forgiving God offers you,” he said. “This is the path to eternal redemption for you bought and paid for by the blood of Jesus, and He is greater than any evil you have committed. I pray you call on his name so that you will be saved.”
Aranda was then sentenced to 19 years in prison, but will be eligible for parole in 12 years. His mother told those outside the court that he has suffered from mental illness since childhood and has received various diagnoses, from autism to schizophrenia.
“He would be fine most of the time … and all of a sudden, out of the blue, it would just kick in out of nowhere,” Becky Aranda stated, according to the Star-Tribune.
She said that she would like answers to what happened as well.
“I myself ask for forgiveness for my son, and hope that the same God that [Landen’s mother] calls upon, who has mercy on her son, will also show mercy to my son,” she stated.