May 21, 2024

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Family of boy thrown from MOA balcony sues, alleging security failures

The family of a boy who was thrown off a third-floor balcony at the Mall of America in 2019 has alleged in a lawsuit that mall security failed to thoroughly investigate their son’s attacker when he displayed suspicious activity there the day before the incident.

The family filed a lawsuit Tuesday in Hennepin County District Court against the mall and its owner, noting that their son, identified in the lawsuit as L.H. and known publicly as Landen, suffered severe injuries that have caused a deterioration of his memory, “adaptive skills, and academic performance.” The boy was 5 at the time.

The incident on April 12, 2019, shocked the community and made national news.

The boy’s family said the mall was negligent and is incapable of protecting guests from threats such as his attacker, Emmanuel Aranda, who had a documented history of violent and aggressive activity at the Bloomington shopping center where he had been banned twice.

“The Mall lacks any effective means to screen dangerous or banned individuals from entering the Mall,” the lawsuit said. ” [T]he Mall makes no systematic effort to even attempt to prevent dangerous or banned individuals from entering the Mall. The Mall does not ensure that security officers are distributed throughout the entire premises, to deter violence and quickly respond to suspicious or aggressive individuals.”

The lawsuit said there were no security officers near where the boy was attacked.

In a statement Wednesday, the mall said it would continue to “work through” the legal process and “hopefully find resolution for all parties.”

“From the day that this tragic event happened, our concern has been focused on Landen and his well-being,” the statement said. “We are thankful for his ongoing and continued recovery. We can’t imagine how traumatic this ordeal has been for Landen, his family, and friends. … Our thoughts and best wishes continue to remain with Landen and his family.”

According to the lawsuit, Aranda was at the mall for more than two hours the day before the attack. Mall surveillance video showed him between 3 p.m. and 5:30 p.m. Aranda spent most of that time near the third-floor balcony where the boy was attacked the next day.

A mall security officer spoke to Aranda as he stood on a balcony and looked over the railing.

“Despite concerns sufficient enough to send a security officer to speak to Aranda that day, the security officer spoke with Aranda for less than a minute,” the lawsuit said. “And, despite concerns sufficient enough that the officer continued to observe Aranda for another ten to fifteen minutes, while he leaned up against the railing and observed people walking by, she never asked his name. Thus, Mall Security never checked Aranda’s name against its records to discover whether Aranda had any prior incident at the Mall.”

Mall security failed to thoroughly investigate Aranda, and therefore did not connect him to his previous “violent, aggressive, and erratic” behavior at the mall, the lawsuit said.

The next day, Aranda returned to the mall about 9:42 a.m. and tucked his jacket away near a third-floor balcony. Within minutes, mall security found the jacket, which contained Aranda’s identification, but officers failed to connect the jacket with the man they questioned the previous day.

“Instead, Mall Security allowed Aranda to again proceed to the third level and spend approximately 30 minutes loitering suspiciously there, peering over the balconies, and standing near the Rainforest Cafe,” the lawsuit said. “He prowled the third floor unconstrained until he snatched [the boy] and threw him over the balcony railing.”

The boy’s mother had brought him to the mall after parent-teacher conferences that morning, the lawsuit said.

“A late winter storm had dumped over five inches of snow on Bloomington, and the metro area was frigid with blowing snow,” according to the lawsuit. “The Mall offered a warm and inviting place indoors to celebrate [the boy’s] completion of a school year milestone.”

Aranda was at the mall that day looking for someone to kill because he was angry that women at the mall had rejected his attempts to talk to them, according to criminal charges filed against him.

Aranda, 26, pleaded guilty to attempted first-degree murder and is serving a 19-year prison term. He is expected to be released from prison in 2031.

Aranda was first banned from the mall in 2015 for allegedly throwing items off an upper level of the mall and destroying merchandise in two stores. Three months after the ban was issued, Aranda threatened guests at a mall restaurant, yelling obscenities, throwing drinking glasses and tossing water in people’s faces, leading to a second ban effective through October 2016, the lawsuit said.

The boy suffered extensive and permanent injuries to his brain, face, arms, legs and internal organs, the lawsuit said. His surgeries, tests, therapies and other medical treatments have cost more than $1.75 million.

The latest entries on the boy’s GoFundMe website provided little update on his current condition.

“Two years ago, our family suffered an unimaginable tragedy at the hands of a stranger,” said a post dated April 12, 2021. “We are often asked to ‘share our story’ about that day and our journey since. We know people are curious and want to hear about our sweet boy and our family, but that is not something we are ready or able to do at this time.

“It has been a long journey to this two-year anniversary, and it will continue to be a long road of mental, physical and emotional recovery and healing — for Landen and our entire family. We are, however, so thankful to the Lord that Landen is with us and our family is whole.”

The boy’s family is alleging that the mall was negligent and caused harm to the boy and emotional distress to his mother, who was an arm’s length from her son when he was attacked.

They are asking for monetary damages to cover the boy’s medical expenses and future care, pain and suffering, the boy’s loss of future income, and his mother’s mental anguish, among other costs.

Chao Xiong • 612-270-4708

Twitter: @ChaoStrib

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