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Pastor: Boy thrown from Mall of America balcony shows no sign of brain damage

Pastor: Boy thrown from Mall of America balcony shows no sign of brain damage

A 5-year-old boy who suffered serious head injuries, as well as broken arms and legs, when a stranger flung him from a third floor balcony at the Mall of America earlier this month shows no sign of brain swelling or permanent damage, the family’s pastor said during an Easter Sunday sermon.  Landen Hoffman was shopping with his mother and friends around 10:15 a.m. April 12 when Emmanuel Deshawn Aranda, 24, of Minneapolis, is accused of picking the boy up and hurling him over a railing to the first floor nearly 40 feet below. Aranda tried to run, but police, with help from witnesses, found him on a light rail train at the mall and took him into custody. >> Related story: Boy thrown from Mall of America balcony making ‘small steps’ toward healing Aranda, who is charged with attempted premeditated first-degree murder, is being held in the Hennepin County Jail in lieu of $2 million bond. Pastor Mac Hammond of Living Word Christian Center in Brooklyn Park told his congregation Sunday that he and his wife, Lynne, visited with the family earlier in the week. Landen, his parents and his grandparents are longtime members of the church.  Hammond said he and his wife went to Children’s Hospital in Minneapolis to have communion with the family and to anoint Landen with oil.  “They asked us to come right before he was to have a five-hour MRI session to determine the full extent of the damage that his body suffered,” Hammond said during the sermon, a portion of which was posted on the church’s Facebook page. “It was a miracle he wasn’t killed.” Hammond said Landen’s grandfather called him later the afternoon of the test to tell him the MRI “was a testimony in itself.” As congregants began to cheer, Hammond told them to let him finish before they gave the Lord a “shout-out.” “There was zero evidence of brain damage,” Hammond said. “Not just brain damage, there wasn’t even any swelling in the brain. No spinal cord injury. No nerve damage. No internal injuries that were life-threatening.” Hammond said Landen did suffer small amounts of internal bleeding and broke many bones. Doctors had to work on the boy’s nose and cheekbones the day after the attack, the pastor said.  “The doctors were amazed at how everything just kind of fell back in place,” Hammond said. “One of his attending physicians said this: ‘This is truly a miracle.’ This is him speaking: ‘This is truly a miracle. It’s like he fell off a bicycle instead of off the third floor of the mall.’”  Landen, who is described on a GoFundMe page set up to help pay his medical bills as the “sweetest, kindest 5-year-old you will ever meet,” had gone to the mall with his mom to meet up with a friend and that boy’s mother for a play date. It was there that the group encountered Aranda, who Hennepin County court records indicate had gone to the mall looking for someone to kill. According to a criminal complaint, Aranda told authorities he initially went to the mall April 11 looking for an adult to kill, but it “didn’t work out.” He went back the next day. “He said he planned to kill an adult because they usually stand near the balcony, but he chose the victim instead,” the document reads.  Aranda told investigators he chose to kill out of frustration over years of rejection from the opposite sex.  “Defendant indicated he had been coming to the mall for several years and had made efforts to talk to women in the mall, but had been rejected,” the complaint says. “The rejection caused him to lash out and be aggressive.” Surveillance camera footage from the mall shows Aranda walking on the third floor of the mall and looking over the balcony several times before approaching Landen and his mother.  Landen’s mother told detectives she saw Aranda approach and stand very close to her and her son. She asked if he needed them to move.  “Without warning, defendant picked up the victim and threw him off the third floor balcony in front of (Landen’s mother) and several other witnesses, including children,” the complaint states.  Read the criminal complaint against Emmanuel Aranda below. Witnesses told the Minneapolis Star Tribune they heard screaming after the boy went over the railing. “Oh my God! Pray for my son!” Landen’s mother begged, witnesses told the newspaper.  An update on Landen’s GoFundMe page, which is nearing its $1 million goal, called him his family’s “miracle child.” “New test results have been positive, though he remains in intensive care with a long road ahead,” the page reads. “Our faith in God, and our Savior Jesus, is strong and we are gaining more reason for optimism day by day. We continue our request for privacy as we focus on Landen and thank you for respecting our wishes. Just know that we all feel your overwhelming love, prayers and support. He is answering our prayers and they ARE working.”  The page describes Landen as full of energy and life. “His soul is soft and gentle and instantly brings a smile to everybody he meets,” the page says.  He enjoys soccer, playing with friends and family and playing hockey with his brother and sister, the page reads.

Trump Administration and IRS miss deadline  for  tax returns

Trump Administration and IRS miss deadline for tax returns

The deadline passed Tuesday afternoon for the Internal Revenue Service to hand over six years of President Donald Trump’s tax returns to a congressional committee. >> Read more trending news The returns were originally requested earlier this month by House Ways and Means Committee Chairman Rep. Richard Neal, D-Mass., one of four people authorized to request usually private income tax returns under a little-known IRS code. Neal had set a final deadline for the documents for 5 p.m. Tuesday. Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin now says a final decision will be given to Congress by May 6. >> From Cox Media Group’s Jamie Dupree: IRS to give final decision on Trump tax returns by May 6 Officials earlier this month asked for more time to review Neal’s request, with Treasury Department Secretary Steve Mnuchin emphasizing in a letter to the chairman that the tax code he cited to get Trump’s returns was not meant to be used “for political reasons,” including “for purposes of embarrassing or attacking political figures of another party.” Section 6103(f) of the Internal Revenue Code says the Treasury Department secretary “shall furnish … any return or return information” requested by a handful of lawmakers, including Neal. The information could then be shared with the House Ways and Means Committee “only when sitting in closed executive session” unless Trump allows for further disclosure, according to the Internal Revenue Code. >> Trump’s tax returns: What is 6103 and how will it be used to get Trump’s returns?  In a letter sent April 13 to IRS Commissioner Charles Rettig, Neal rejected the Treasury Department’s opposition to the release, pointing to the clear wording of section 6103(f) of the Internal Revenue Code. “It is not the proper function of the IRS, Treasury or Justice to question or second guess the motivations of the Committee or its reasonable determinations regarding its need for the requested tax returns and return information,” Neal wrote. >> From Cox Media Group’s Jamie Dupree: Feds ignore deadline from Democrats on Trump tax returns He added that “concerns about what the Committee may do wit the tax returns and return information are baseless.” “This request falls squarely within the Committee’s oversight authority,” Neal said. “The IRS, Treasury, and Justice must assume that the Committee Members, like all government officials, will act properly in the conduct of their official duties.” >> From Cox Media Group’s Jamie Dupree: IRS, Treasury sidestep answer on call for Trump tax returns  If authorities fail to turn over the documents, Democrats warned a legal battle is likely to follow. “If the IRS does not comply with the request, it is likely that Chairman Neal will subpoena the returns,” House Ways and Means Committee member Rep. Judy Chu, D-Calif., told Reuters. “If they do not comply with that (subpoena), a legal battle will begin to defend the right of oversight in Congress.” Mnuchin previously told Congress that authorities “will comply with the law” in regard to releasing Trump’s tax returns.  >> Trump downplays House Democrat's request for tax returns, says he's under audit In his original request for Trump’s tax returns, Neal also asked officials to specify whether any of them had been “under any type of examination or audit” and “the issue(s) under examination.” Trump has repeatedly declined to release his tax returns, citing an ongoing audit. “I would love to give them, but I’m not going to do it while I’m under audit,” Trump told reporters April 10.

Search for missing Illinois 5-year-old focused on boy’s own home, police say

Search for missing Illinois 5-year-old focused on boy’s own home, police say

Police investigators searching for a 5-year-old boy missing from his Illinois home since Thursday are focusing their attention on that home after K-9 units were unable to detect the boy’s scent anywhere but there, authorities said.  Andrew “A.J.” Thomas Freund Jr. was reported missing from his Crystal Lake home Thursday morning. His parents told investigators they last saw him around 9:30 p.m. the night before. “After waking up this morning and being unable to locate him in the home, Andrew’s parents contacted police and reported him missing,” a news release from the Crystal Lake Police Department said.  >> Read more trending news Andrew, who is about 3 feet, 5 inches tall and weighs about 70 pounds, has short blond hair. He was last seen wearing a blue Mario sweatshirt and black sweatpants, his father, Andrew Freund Sr., said in a 911 call released Tuesday by authorities. Crystal Lake police investigators have not issued an Amber Alert for the boy because they cannot prove he was abducted, officials said last week.  CNN reported Andrew has not always lived with his parents and that the Illinois Department of Children and Family Services had been part of the boy’s life since his birth. DCFS spokesman Jassen Strokosch told the news network that Andrew became a ward of the state as a newborn following allegations of neglect by his mother, JoAnn Cunningham. Andrew was in someone else’s care for about two years before being returned to his parents. CNN reported that DCFS was called twice in 2018 based on allegations of neglect and abuse, but both incidents were determined to be unfounded claims.  A neighbor, Janelle Butler, told ABC7 in Chicago that residents in Andrew’s neighborhood have been concerned about his and his younger brother’s welfare -- and have let police know it -- over the past year. “We’ve seen the kids being taken away and are always shocked that they have been returned,” Butler told the news station.   Cunningham was in court Tuesday in McHenry County to determine if her younger son, Parker, would remain with her or be placed in protective custody, ABC7 reported.  Police officials released audio of the 911 call Freund made following several open records requests by local media.  “We have a missing child,” Freund tells the dispatcher in the call. “We woke up this morning and he wasn’t … we have a missing child.” The dispatcher can be heard typing as he asks Freund details about his son’s appearance, such as his race and what he was wearing when he vanished. Freund tells him that he and his wife last saw the boy the night before when he went to bed.  Listen to the 911 call below, courtesy of the Chicago Tribune. The dispatcher asks if the father has any idea to where his son might have wandered. “No,” Freund responds. “We’ve canvassed the neighborhood, I went to the local park, the local gas station down here where we sometimes take him to buy treats. I spoke with the assistant principal over there at the school where the park is, and they haven’t seen him or any other child. I have no idea where he would be.” He tells the dispatcher that he went to a doctor’s appointment that morning and, when he returned between 8:15 and 8:30 a.m., he checked on Andrew. The boy was gone, he says.  The dispatcher asks about pets in the house and if they are missing as well.  “Nope,” Freund says.  As police officers arrive outside, Freund tells the dispatcher that he and his wife found no doors or windows open that morning.  Crystal Lake police officials said FBI agents specializing in missing children cases were on the scene of Andrew’s disappearance by Thursday afternoon. Over the first 24 hours after the boy was reported missing, multiple search and rescue K-9 units, which are trained to find people, were also deployed.  “The canine teams only picked up Andrew’s scent within the residence, indicating that Andrew had not walked away on foot,” police officials said.  The department also activated an Illinois Law Enforcement Alarm System (ILEAS) mutual aid request. A total of 15 agencies responded, bringing with them four drones. About 373 acres of ground were covered in a foot search and about 497 acres were covered from the air by the drones, authorities said. They found no sign of Andrew.  Sonar teams spent about four hours combing the waters of Crystal Lake, which is just blocks from the boy’s home on Dole Avenue. They used cameras to search underneath all docks and piers along the shore and sonar equipment to search the lake itself.  Again, no sign of Andrew was found, police officials said.  As of Friday afternoon, authorities said they did not believe there was a threat to the community. “Information obtained currently has police focusing on the residence,” they said in a news release. “This morning police investigators are continuing to actively investigate this case and continue to review all tips or leads sent to the police department. At this time, if the public is looking to assist, we are asking that you search your property and that you report anything suspicious to the Crystal Lake Police Department.” Detectives continued to work the case over the weekend. By Monday, police officials said Cunningham had stopped cooperating with police in her son’s disappearance. “On Saturday afternoon, Andrew Freund, the boy’s father, did speak with police detectives,” Monday’s news release said. “Investigators are continuing to review evidence, leads and tips as they become available. “There has been no arrest in this case at this time.” Police have not publicly labeled either parent a suspect.  Searchers spent Monday and into Tuesday searching Lippold Park, which is a couple of miles from Andrew’s home. Police officials said Tuesday morning that the Illinois State Police was slated to fly a plane over the area to help guide searchers on the ground. Sonar teams will also begin focusing on several ponds and smaller bodies of water, they said.  Detectives were also seeking surveillance video from citizens -- beginning three days before Andrew was reported missing.  “This would include video from home surveillance devices like the Ring Home Security System,” the latest news release said. “This request is for any video from Monday April 15, 2019, at 7 a.m. through April 18th, 2019 at 9 a.m. Any member of the community who may have video that could help investigators are asked to please email those videos or images to jmattson@crystallake.org.” Cunningham’s attorney, George Kililis, said during a brief news conference outside her home Friday that his client, who stood silently at his side, is not involved in her son’s disappearance. According to ABC7, Kililis said Cunningham was fully cooperative with detectives until she began to sense that she was a suspect in the case.  The lawyer said he advised her at that time to exercise her right to remain silent, ABC7 reported.  Kililis issued a written statement Tuesday in which he said Cunningham is “devastated” by Crystal Lake police officials’ statement calling her uncooperative. He said she was physically with investigators for more than eight hours the day Andrew was reported missing and spoke with multiple agents, both local and federal.  “While law enforcement was conducting a missing child investigation, Ms. Cunningham was eager to participate,” Kililis wrote, according to ABC7. “When it became clear law enforcement was not conducting a missing child investigation, was not issuing an Amber Alert, had stopped searching for A.J. and considered her a suspect, we did advise her to stop all communications with law enforcement and she did so at our request. This is just us as her attorneys doing our job, not evidence of her wrongdoing, and is not itself suspicious in any way.” Freund spoke directly to his son via the news cameras Friday.  “A.J., please come home,” Freund said. “We love you very much. You’re not in any trouble, we’re just worried to death. Please, please come home.” He asked the public to reach out to police with any information on his son’s whereabouts.  “We’re just extremely worried,” he said. “If anybody knows anything about where Andrew Jr. is, please, please contact the Crystal Lake Police Department. Let’s get him home.” Anyone with information related to the case can contact the Crystal Lake Police Department at 815-356-3620. Anyone with a cellphone can send an anonymous tip to the department by texting the word CLPDTIP along with the tip information to 847411 (TIP411). 

IRS to give final decision on Trump tax returns by May 6 For the second time this month, the Trump Administration and the Internal Revenue Service did not comply with a deadline set by Democrats in Congress to turn over seven years of President Donald Trump's personal and business tax returns, as Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin now says a final decision will be given to Congress by May 6, ignoring a Tuesday 5 pm deadline set by Democrats in Congress. 'Due to the serious constitutional questions raised by this request and the serious consequences that a resolution of those questions could have for taxpayer privacy,' Mnuchin wrote, as he added that he expects to give Congress 'a final decision by May 6, after receiving the Justice Department's legal conclusions.' It was the second time that the Treasury Secretary had asked for more time from Democrats, as Mnuchin again labeled the request for President Trump's tax returns 'unprecedented.' The ten page letter certainly gave off the feeling that Mnuchin was in no mood to ship the President's tax returns to Democrats in the House, as the Secretary directly questioned whether lawmakers should have the power to see Mr. Trump's tax returns. 'Congress's investigative power is not unlimited,' Mnuchin wrote in a section he titled, 'Constitutional Limits.' 'Article I grants Congress no express power to investigate.' Well before the 5 pm EDT deadline, White House officials had made clear that the President would not force the IRS to comply with the request from Democrats on the House Ways and Means Committee. 'The President is pretty clear - once he's out of audit, he'll think about doing it,' said White House Deputy Press Secretary Hogan Gidley during an appearance on Fox News, as Gidley denounced the Democratic push for Mr. Trump's tax returns as 'ridiculous tactics.' 'Everyone knows he's a very successful billionaire,' Gidley added. Earlier this month, Secretary Mnuchin said more time was needed to evaluate the request, without specifically rejecting the demand for the President's tax information under Section 6103(f) of the Internal Revenue Code. Democrats argued there was no issue about what should be done. 'They do not have a choice,' said Rep. Don Beyer (D-VA), who said the language under §6103(f) is clear.  'The President is not above the law, and the law is clear that once requested his returns must be furnished,' Beyer said. But the contention by the President and White House officials that Mr. Trump cannot release his tax returns until an audit is completed was knocked down multiple times by the IRS Commissioner in recent testimony before Congress. At this point, it seems the only route for this dispute is in the courts over the following section on the tax code: 'Upon written request from the chairman of the Committee on Ways and Means of the House of Representatives, the chairman of the Committee on Finance of the Senate, or the chairman of the Joint Committee on Taxation, the Secretary shall furnish such committee with any return or return information specified in such request, except that any return or return information which can be associated with, or otherwise identify, directly or indirectly, a particular taxpayer shall be furnished to such committee only when sitting in closed executive session unless such taxpayer otherwise consents in writing to such disclosure,' §6103(f) states.