A suburban Chicago man who drove his black SUV through Woodfield Mall in Schaumburg, Illinois, is facing terrorism charges, according to the Cook County state’s attorney’s office.
The Los Angeles Times reports that local police announced the charges, leveled against 22-year-old Palatine, Illinois resident, Javier Garcia on Sunday. Garcia was also charged with “felony criminal damage to property.”
The terrorism charge is local. The Federal government hasn’t yet announced if they will seek charges. They were on the scene, a week ago Friday, when Garcia plowed his Chevy Trailblazer through an entrance to the Sears department store, turned a hard right into the mall itself, and drove past several stores, plowing into kiosks, destroying a window display at Forever 21, and eventually hitting a pole near the mall’s center court.
For Illinois, though, the terrorism charge isn’t necessarily related to Garcia’s motive (though a motive has yet to be specified).
Local news reports that Cook County authorities can charge someone with “terrorism” if they cause more than $100,000 worth of damage to certain structures. The law itself specifies that “terrorism” includes “any act that causes substantial damage to any building containing (5) or more businesses of any type. Substantial damage means monetary damage greater than $100,000.”
Initially, police indicated that they believed Garcia was suffering from a “medical condition,” and Garcia’s father reported to media that his son was on medication for an unspecified illness and that family members have been trying to get Garcia into treatment. Garcia’s lawyer told media that he believes his client suffers from “bipolar disorder, schizophrenia, and paranoia.”
After being arrested, Garcia was taken to a behavioral health facility but has since been released into police custody. He was denied bond in a hearing over the weekend.
The incident, which saw Garcia bypass security barriers and go far into the mall before crashing and being apprehended (by an off duty police officer and several mall patrons, not mall security or law enforcement) was bizarre in its own right, and police were initially reticent to ascribe a motive to Garcia. But further investigation seems to indicate that Garcia planned some sort of attack.
Chicago’s CBS affiliate “learned Garcia searched ‘Woodfield Mall’ 124 times, including aerial views of the mall and stores including Sears. Included in the total searches, ‘Sears,’ specifically, was searched 35 times.” He also spent time inside Sears the day of the attack. He was caught on security camera wandering around the store. He eventually left without buying anything, returned to his car, and then drove his car back to — and through — the Sears entrance.
Three people received minor injuries in the attack, none from the attacker himself or his car. Authorities say Garcia did come close to doing major bodily harm to several children, however; the SUV narrowly missed a children’s train ride that operates in the open space directly outside the Sears mall entrance.
Authorities aren’t sure what Garcia was trying to do, though, even if he had planned the attack ahead of time.
“Police have no reason to believe Garcia was targeting any specific person and/or store within Sears or Woodfield Mall,” a spokesperson told local media Sunday.
Garcia’s attorney maintains that his client is not a “terrorist” and that he finds the charges surprising.