Cops: Man Drove Through Mall After 124 Online Searches

Javier Garcia charged with terrorism after Sept. 20 incident near Chicago
By Evann Gastaldo,  Newser Staff
Posted Sep 30, 2019 2:09 PM CDT
Cops: Man Drove Through Mall After 124 Online Searches
The damaged storefront of the Sears store at Woodfield Mall is seen after a man drove an SUV into the store in the Chicago suburb of Schaumburg, Ill., on Friday, Sept. 20, 2019.   (John J. Kim/Chicago Tribune via AP)

A 22-year-old man who allegedly drove his SUV into an Illinois mall on Sept. 20 has been charged with terrorism, police announced Sunday. Javier Garcia allegedly entered the Sears store at the Woodfield Mall in Schaumburg, left without purchasing anything, then returned in his SUV four minutes later and crashed through the glass and steel store entrance, the New York Times reports. He then allegedly proceeded to drive through the mall causing chaos and panic—nearly hitting a children's train attraction, smashing glass, and striking kiosks—until the SUV hit a pillar and two off-duty officers pulled Garcia from the vehicle. Three people were taken to the hospital and four were treated at the scene, but no one sustained life-threatening injuries; damage to the mall, however, clocked in at more than $110,000.

Police say Garcia, who is also charged with criminal damage to property, acted alone. They say he had searched for aerial views of the mall 124 times in less than a day, but that they have no reason to believe he was targeting any particular person or store and have not yet determined a motive. Police say the terrorism charge is defined under state law as "any act that causes substantial damage to any building containing (5) or more businesses of any type," per CBS Chicago, but CBS News notes such a charge is "unusual" and that it's "not clear" why it was chosen. Garcia's lawyer calls the charges "aggressive and surprising," and says he believes his client, who lives with his father and sister, was being treated for schizophrenia, paranoia, and bipolar disorder. "He is not a terrorist," the attorney says. "He has zero criminal background. He’s been very cooperative, quiet and not aggressive." (More Illinois stories.)

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