The parents of the five-year-old boy thrown from a balcony at the Mall of America in April said they forgave the man who tried to kill their son. In statements read by the prosecutor at the sentencing of Emmanuel Deshawn Aranda on Monday, Landen’s mother and father said they will not let the “evil” act define them and also told Aranda that God’s grace and mercy are available to him.
“I want you to know I forgive you,” Landen’s mother said. “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 our family. You’re not taking our love, our joy, our peace. You’re not taking anything! I refuse to be full of anger and hatred, I refuse to let you take my joy.”
The Father’s Statement
Landen’s father said that Aranda’s actions will not affect them any further: “You chose to listen to the worst parts of yourself that day. 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.” They were at the mall to have a “normal,” “fun” day, said Landen’s father, and the fact that Aranda harmed their son would not change they way they live in the future. “You will not define our lives or our hearts,” he said. “We will live our lives to the fullest filled with fun and joy.”
Landen’s father expressed that he wished Aranda could experience the pain and suffering Aranda caused Landen. But while he did want Aranda to get “the maximum punishment,” Landen’s father also said he forgave him: “I forgive you, because it is what God calls me to do and holding hate only harms me and I will not allow that.”
He also wanted Aranda to know that God loved him and wants to save him. Landen’s father quoted John 3:16 and said, “This is the grace that our merciful, loving, and forgiving God offers you.” Jesus, he said, “is greater than any evil you have committed. I pray you call on his name so that you will be saved.”
The Mother’s Statement
Landen’s mother began her statement by alluding to Genesis 50:20 where Joseph tells his brothers he forgave them for selling him into slavery. Joseph says, “You intended to harm me, but God intended it for good to accomplish what is now being done, the saving of many lives.” She focused on God’s authority to use even evil actions for good, saying that now, “The whole world is seeing God move in this little boy that I get to call mine.”
The mother expressed compassion for Aranda, saying, “I’m sad you chose anger and hatred. Something really bad must have happened to you for you to want to do this to a sweet, innocent little boy. I’m sorry for whatever you’ve gone through. I hope God can save you and show you what His love is all about someday.”
She also said she is at peace with the fact that God will ultimately judge Aranda one day. “I hand it off to him and you will take none of my thoughts EVER again,” she said. “I am done with you. God, it is all in your hands.”
What Occurred at the Mall
A couple of months ago in April, Landen was at the Mall of America with his family when Aranda approached Landen and his mother, snatching the boy and throwing him off a balcony. Landen fell an estimated 40 feet, but has miraculously survived without any brain or spinal damage.
He has, however, sustained serious injuries, including multiple broken bones. The GoFundMe page set up for him states, “Landen has a very long road to recovery ahead of him… He has many surgeries ahead in his life to try to get back to a normal life for a young, vibrant boy.”
Police found and arrested Aranda as he was leaving the mall. He admitted to throwing Landen off the balcony and also admitted that he had gone to the mall intending to kill someone. He had been planning to kill an adult, but chose Landen instead.
Aranda was sentenced to 19 years in prison, which according to The Washington Post, is the maximum amount of time recommended by the state of Minnesota for a crime like this. He will serve at least 12.5 of those years, but will then be eligible for supervised release.
Aranda chose not to make any address to the court, the judge or Landen’s parents.