BLOOMINGTON, Minn. — A 5-year-old boy who suffered serious head injuries, as well as broken arms and legs, when a stranger flung him from a third floor balcony at the Mall of America earlier this month shows no sign of brain swelling or permanent damage, the family's pastor said during an Easter Sunday sermon.
Landen Hoffman was shopping with his mother and friends around 10:15 a.m. April 12 when Emmanuel Deshawn Aranda, 24, of Minneapolis, is accused of picking the boy up and hurling him over a railing to the first floor nearly 40 feet below. Aranda tried to run, but police, with help from witnesses, found him on a light rail train at the mall and took him into custody.
Aranda, who is charged with attempted premeditated first-degree murder, is being held in the Hennepin County Jail in lieu of $2 million bond.
Pastor Mac Hammond of Living Word Christian Center in Brooklyn Park told his congregation Sunday that he and his wife, Lynne, visited with the family earlier in the week. Landen, his parents and his grandparents are longtime members of the church.
Hammond said he and his wife went to Children’s Hospital in Minneapolis to have communion with the family and to anoint Landen with oil.
"They asked us to come right before he was to have a five-hour MRI session to determine the full extent of the damage that his body suffered," Hammond said during the sermon, a portion of which was posted on the church's Facebook page. "It was a miracle he wasn't killed."
Hammond said Landen’s grandfather called him later the afternoon of the test to tell him the MRI “was a testimony in itself.”
As congregants began to cheer, Hammond told them to let him finish before they gave the Lord a “shout-out.”
"There was zero evidence of brain damage," Hammond said. "Not just brain damage, there wasn't even any swelling in the brain. No spinal cord injury. No nerve damage. No internal injuries that were life-threatening."
Hammond said Landen did suffer small amounts of internal bleeding and broke many bones. Doctors had to work on the boy’s nose and cheekbones the day after the attack, the pastor said.
"The doctors were amazed at how everything just kind of fell back in place," Hammond said. "One of his attending physicians said this: 'This is truly a miracle.' This is him speaking: 'This is truly a miracle. It's like he fell off a bicycle instead of off the third floor of the mall.'"
Landen, who is described on a GoFundMe page set up to help pay his medical bills as the "sweetest, kindest 5-year-old you will ever meet," had gone to the mall with his mom to meet up with a friend and that boy's mother for a play date. It was there that the group encountered Aranda, who Hennepin County court records indicate had gone to the mall looking for someone to kill.
According to a criminal complaint, Aranda told authorities he initially went to the mall April 11 looking for an adult to kill, but it "didn't work out." He went back the next day.
“He said he planned to kill an adult because they usually stand near the balcony, but he chose the victim instead,” the document reads.
Aranda told investigators he chose to kill out of frustration over years of rejection from the opposite sex.
"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," the complaint says. "The rejection caused him to lash out and be aggressive."
Surveillance camera footage from the mall shows Aranda walking on the third floor of the mall and looking over the balcony several times before approaching Landen and his mother.
Landen’s mother told detectives she saw Aranda approach and stand very close to her and her son. She asked if he needed them to move.
"Without warning, defendant picked up the victim and threw him off the third floor balcony in front of (Landen's mother) and several other witnesses, including children," the complaint states.
Read the criminal complaint against Emmanuel Aranda below.
Witnesses told the Minneapolis Star Tribune they heard screaming after the boy went over the railing.
"Oh my God! Pray for my son!" Landen's mother begged, witnesses told the newspaper.
An update on Landen's GoFundMe page, which is nearing its $1 million goal, called him his family's "miracle child."
"New test results have been positive, though he remains in intensive care with a long road ahead," the page reads. "Our faith in God, and our Savior Jesus, is strong and we are gaining more reason for optimism day by day. We continue our request for privacy as we focus on Landen and thank you for respecting our wishes. Just know that we all feel your overwhelming love, prayers and support. He is answering our prayers and they ARE working."
The page describes Landen as full of energy and life.
"His soul is soft and gentle and instantly brings a smile to everybody he meets," the page says.
He enjoys soccer, playing with friends and family and playing hockey with his brother and sister, the page reads.
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