SCHAUMBURG, Ill. — The man accused of driving an SUV into the Woodfield Mall could be sentenced to 20 years in prison if he`s convicted of the terrorism count he’s been charged with. However, Javier Garcia’s family said he is not a terrorist — just a man who suffers from several mental health disorders.
Officials said Garcia, 22, smashed a black SUV through Sears and into the suburban mall on Sept. 20, creating a panic as people ran for safety. Garcia was arrested on the scene.
The FBI and Schaumburg police said Garcia does not have any ties to terrorist organizations. His attorney said he doesn’t have a criminal record.
Garcia’s sister Noemi Garcia said her brother was diagnosed with paranoid schizophrenia three years ago and has bipolar disorder.
“I don’t believe my brother is a terrorist, nor was that terrorism,” she said.
Noemi Garcia said her brother took medication to control the voices he heard, which seemed to help. She said he went back to school and got a job.
Not long ago, he lost his insurance and the drugs that seemed to work became too expensive. His doctor was forced to change his medication.
Noemi Garcia said her brother voluntarily admitted himself into mental health clinics. He was released from one of those clinics the day before he drove into the mall. She said he was never violent.
“I don’t think my brother belongs in jail,” she said. “He needs a place he can get his medications and treatment he needs.”
“If he did that, it’s not because he wanted to do it, but because of his mental illness,” Garcia’s father Adan Garcia said in Spanish as his daughter translated.
Along with terrorism, Javier Garcia has been charged with criminal destruction of property. Prosecutors believe he planned to crash into the mall.
Javier Garcia’s attorney said if it was just the felony criminal destruction of property charges, he could be eligible for probation.
Currently, Javier Garcia is being held without bond. He is due back in court Oct. 18.