The parents of a 5-year-old boy, who was thrown from a third-floor balcony at Mall of America, have credited their Christian faith for allowing them to forgive their son’s assailant ahead of his prison sentence.
Emmanuel Deshawn Aranda, 24, was sentenced to 19 years in prison after pleading guilty to first-degree attempted murder in relation to the April 12 attack which left 5-year-old Landen Hoffman with severe head trauma and multiple broken bones.
Statements from the boy’s parents were read out during proceedings on Monday, with Aranda declining to address the court, NBC News reports.
“Your act was evil and selfish, you chose to listen to the worst parts of yourself that day,” the boy’s father expressed in his statement. “You chose evil over good and chose to take your hate and hurt out on my precious boy. I want you to know that I forgive you, not because what you did was OK, not because I want to, but because God wants me to.”
“I’m not letting you take any part of my family: You’re not taking our love, our joy, our peace. You’re not taking anything ... That is where your impact on us stops, you will take nothing more from us.”
In her statement, Landen’s mother also said she forgave Aranda because she believes God expects her to.
“You chose to think about yourself that day, what you were feeling and wanted to do to someone else,” Landen’s mother said in a separate statement read by the prosecutor. “I’m sad you chose anger and hatred.”
“God will judge you someday and I have peace with that,” the mother stated. “I hand it off to Him and you will take none of my thoughts ever again. I am done with you.”
Police say Landen was thrown an estimated 40 feet over the railing to the Minnesota mall’s first floor while standing with his mother outside the third-floor Rainforest Café.
Aranda reportedly flung the boy over the railing after choosing him at random because he was "looking to kill someone" at the mall. He said he had planned to kill an adult standing near the railing, but picked the young victim instead.
Aranda’s family insisted that he suffers from mental illness. “This is very sad for us. I’m sad also for the family,” the attacker’s mother, Becky Aranda, said after the sentencing. “I’m glad that she has forgiven my son. That is a burden that has lifted off our shoulders.”
Becky Aranda revealed Landen’s family prayed over her son: “She prayed for him and asked for forgiveness,” she said, adding she hopes God takes mercy on her son.
Landen has been making remarkable progress despite the devastating fall, according to an update from Mac Hammond, pastor of the family's church.
He revealed that a five-hour MRI yielded results doctors referred to as "truly a miracle.”
“There was zero evidence of brain damage ... there wasn't even swelling in the brain,” Hammond told the congregation. “No spinal cord injury, no nerve damage, no internal injuries that were life-threatening. There was some small internal bleeding that had to be addressed.”
“One of his attending physicians said this: ‘This is truly a miracle. It’s like he fell off a bicycle instead of off the third floor of the mall,’” he added.
A later update from Landen’s GoFundMe page — which has raised over $1 million — noted that the little boy experienced “non-life threatening complications from his injuries which have required additional procedures to correct.”
“He is recovering, and his spirit is strong – but there is still a long road ahead,” read the recent update. “We are thankful to Jesus for lifting us up and providing ongoing healing. We continue to ask for your prayers and greatly appreciate your respect for our privacy during this difficult time.”
“We are thankful to Jesus for lifting us up and providing ongoing healing. We continue to ask for your prayers and greatly appreciate your respect for our privacy during this difficult time.”