MINNEAPOLIS — A 5-year-old child plummeted three floors Friday after being pushed or thrown from a balcony at the Mall of America, according to witnesses, and police said a 24-year-old man was in custody.
Bloomington Police Chief Jeffrey Potts said police don’t think there is any relationship between the man and the family of the child, who suffered “significant injuries” and was taken to a hospital.
Witnesses told police that the child may have been pushed or thrown from the mall’s third level to the first floor, Potts said. He said the suspect immediately took off running but was quickly found and arrested at the mall.
A witness said a woman screamed that her child was thrown from the balcony.
Brian Johnson told WCCO-TV the woman was screaming, “Everybody pray, everybody pray. Oh my God, my baby, someone threw him over the edge.”
Police don’t have an idea about possible motive, Potts said.
“At this point we believe this is an isolated incident,” the chief said. “We’re actively trying to figure out why this occurred.”
No details were immediately available about the child’s condition.
The 4.2-million-square-foot Mall of America is in Bloomington, about 10 miles south of Minneapolis. The mall, which opened in 1992, has more than 520 stores and is visited by 40 million visitors annually, according to its website . Attractions include Nickelodeon Universe indoor amusement park and Sea Life Minnesota Aquarium .
Each year, the Mall of America receives more than 115,000 calls for services, reunites more than 3,700 lost children with their parents and responds to more than 1,100 medical emergencies, the mall’s website says. The mall’s security officers undergo more than 400 hours of training in safety, emergency operations, Krav Maga, the official self-defence system of Israli security forces, and “verbal judo” de-escalation techniques, and the mall manages and trains 15 dogs that can detect explosives.
In 2015, the al-Shabab extremist group called for an attack on the Mall of America and other shopping centres in a video. Al-Shabab fighters attacked an upscale Kenyan mall in 2013 in a siege that left 67 people dead. In response, the Mall of America said it was tightening security, and that some of the extra precautions would be noticeable to guests and others would not be.
A Minneapolis man was sentenced to 15 years in prison last year for attacking two brothers at the Macy’s department store at the mall. The man said he was inspired by the Islamic State when he stabbed the brothers in a dressing room area in November 2017.
A teenage brawl erupted at the mall the day after Christmas in 2011. The melee was caught on YouTube, but police concluded the brawl — the worst case of violence at the mall in more than 15 years — was not organized through social media as initially feared. Ten people were arrested for disorderly conduct, including four juveniles.
— Jeff Baenen (News researcher Jennifer Farrar contributed to this report from New York.)
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