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Family of Mall of America victim will not confirm pastor’s comments on child’s injuries

Minneapolis Star Tribune logo Minneapolis Star Tribune 4/23/2019 By John Reinan, Star Tribune

Lawyer Stephen Tillitt speaks on April 16, 2019, to reporters and reads a statement on behalf of the family whose 5-year-old son was tossed over a third floor balcony inside the Mall of America by Emmanuel Aranda on April 12, 2019.

Lawyer Stephen Tillitt speaks on April 16, 2019, to reporters and reads a statement on behalf of the family whose 5-year-old son was tossed over a third floor balcony inside the Mall of America by Emmanuel Aranda on April 12, 2019.
© Shari L. Gross/Minneapolis Star Tribune/TNS

MINNEAPOLIS — The family of the child thrown from a balcony at the Mall of America earlier this month would not confirm or deny a statement by a family pastor saying the boy showed “zero evidence” of any brain injury.

In a Tuesday conference call, the family’s attorney, Stephen Tillitt, said he wasn’t authorized to either confirm or deny comments made in a video posted on Facebook by Mac Hammond, pastor of the Living Word Christian Center in Brooklyn Park, which Landen’s grandparents attend.

“The family is in a position where any comment to confirm or deny would be intruding on the realm of the privacy they want,” Tillitt said. “To start going into details of any kind, confirming or denying, means that the privacy has been intruded upon.

“This is a young child whose health is now becoming public, and the family realizes that what’s public today will be public in 20 years.”

The Living Word church posted a video this week on its Facebook page, recorded at an Easter Sunday service. In the video, Hammond said the boy’s grandfather told him that an MRI of Landen showed “zero evidence of brain damage.

“Not just brain damage, there wasn’t even any swelling in the brain,” Hammond said the grandfather told him. “No spinal cord injury, no nerve damage, no internal injuries that were life-threatening.”

According to Hammond’s account, one of the attending physicians said, “This is truly a miracle. It’s like he fell off a bicycle instead of off the third floor of the mall.”

Tillitt clarified the bicycle remark, saying it referred to the boy’s facial injuries, not to his overall condition. He said that as far as he knows, the family is not upset with Hammond for speaking publicly about Landen’s condition.

Tillitt said Landen remains under sedation in intensive care, with further testing to come.

“We have an important week ahead with more milestones to accomplish,” Tillitt said, reading from a statement by the family. “God’s hand is working. Your prayers are working.

“Thank you for respecting our family’s privacy through this unimaginable time,” the statement continued. “We remain steadfast in our faith. Thank you so much and keep praying.”

Emmanuel Deshawn Aranda, 24, of Minneapolis, has been charged with attempted premeditated first-degree homicide in the April 12 attack. He is being held at the Hennepin County jail in lieu of $2 million bond.

In his Easter remarks, Hammond told the congregation that Landen’s mother had “a premonition” as she arrived at the mall to meet a friend that day.

“The Holy Ghost warned her,” Hammond said. “A dread came over her.”

But she didn’t think she should leave, he continued.

“And so she prayed,” he said. “And she called on the ministering angels to hedge them about.”

After the attack, Hammond said, Landen’s mother ran down the stairs to where he lay 40 feet below.

And to the horrified bystanders, “she would say, ‘Just pray,’ ” Hammond continued. “ ‘Don’t say anything, just pray.’ ”

Some days after the attack, Hammond told the congregation, Landen’s grandfather called him after the boy had undergone a five-hour MRI session.

“Well, the MRI is a testimony itself,” the grandfather said, according to Hammond. “There was zero evidence of brain damage.”

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