SCHAUMBURG, Ill. — The man who drove his SUV through Woodfield Mall appeared before a judge Tuesday afternoon for a status hearing.
Javier Garcia, 22, was charged with terrorism and criminal damage to property after police said they believe Garcia was not targeting any specific person or business when he drove a black SUV through the suburban shopping center. No major injuries were reported in the incident.
Garcia’s attorney said he was a mental health patient with no criminal history and the charges are “aggressive.” One of his attorneys described the incident as a “mental, medical condition that occurred.”
“No different than a person who has a heart attack driving and hops a curb and smashes into five businesses. That person’s not deemed a terrorist and neither is Mr. Garcia,” attorney Amil Alkass said.
Defense attorney James Doerr said there is no logic to tie Garcia’s actions to terrorism.
“You’re trying to look at his action and find some logical reason for it and tie it to terrorism, there’s no logic to this,” he said, “He’s a man suffering from mental illness and he does not have these motives.”
Both the FBI and Schaumburg police said Garcia has no ties to a terrorist organization. No motive has been disclosed.
Officials said Garcia smashed a black SUV through Sears and into the mall on Sept. 20, creating a panic as people ran for safety. Garcia was arrested on the scene.
Video posted online also showed the SUV driving around inside the mall, slamming into kiosks as shoppers scrambled to get out of the way.
Prosecutors said they believe the incident was planned. The prosecutor’s office said “the examination of the defendants search history revealed that the defendant searched Woodfield Mall aerial views of the mall and mall premises 124 times.”
Garcia spent a week in a mental health facility, before he was turned over to police over the weekend.
The judge denied Garcia bail on Tuesday.
“It just seems over reaching and if they want to make an example out of somebody this is not the case to do it,” Alkass said.
Garcia’s arraignment is scheduled for Oct. 18. He is expected to plead not guilty to both charges.
If Garcia is found guilty, he faces 20 years to life in prison.