Man Pleads Guilty to Throwing 5-Year-Old Boy Over Railing at Mall of America; Faces 19 Years

Emmanuel Aranda
Photo: Associated Press

Emmanuel D. Aranda, the 24-year-old Minneapolis man charged with hurling a little boy over a third-floor railing at the Mall of America in a random attack last month, pleaded guilty to the crime Tuesday.

Aranda is to be sentenced in June to 19 years in prison after pleading guilty to one count of attempted first-degree murder in the April 12 attack on the five-year-old child, the Minneapolis Star-Tribune reports. As part of the plea deal, prosecutors agreed to drop an “aggravated circumstances” portion of the charge, which will allow Aranda to avoid an additional year in prison, according to the Associated Press.

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On April 12, Aranda approached the child and his family—people he didn’t know—as they stood outside a Rainforest Cafe restaurant in the mall. He suddenly snatched the 5-year-old boy and tossed him over the third-floor railing, sending the child plunging some 40 feet to the floor below.

The boy “survived the fall but suffered bleeding from the head, massive head trauma and fractures in his arms and legs,” the Tribune reports.

An outpouring of support for the child, whose family has requested privacy, led to more than $1 million being raised on GoFundMe in less than a month.

Aranda has a history of arrests at the mall and documented mental health issues, but his attorney said he was competent to make the decision to plead guilty.

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As the AP explained:

He had two past convictions for assaults at the mall, both in 2015, and had been banned from the property at one point. Court records showed that Aranda had been ordered to undergo psychological evaluation or treatment after those attacks.

His attorney, Paul Sellers, previously said Aranda had been in mental health court in the past. But he said after Tuesday’s hearing that Aranda was mentally competent enough to proceed in the attempted murder case.

“He is competent, clearly. I wouldn’t be able to go forward with the plea if he wasn’t competent,” Sellers said.

He added that it was “absolutely, 100 percent” Aranda’s decision to plead guilty.

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Aranda’s mother, Becky Aranda, attended the hearing Tuesday, and told the Tribune that her son had had mental health issues since he was “a little boy.”

She said she was keeping the five-year-old and his family in her prayers, but said her son was “really sick” and “doesn’t need to be in jail.”

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In an interview with the Tribune, Aranda’s attorney Sellers said that while it was Aranda’s decision to plead guilty:

The state’s system fails to address defendants like Aranda, Sellers said, who may need something other than prison or commitment to the St. Peter Minnesota Security Hospital, which houses dangerous people with severe mental health disorders.

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“I wish that there was a better alternative to the dichotomy of either being sent to St. Peter for an indefinite time or going to prison,” Sellers said.

Prosecutors said the child’s family was satisfied with the plea deal.

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