Man accused of driving SUV into Woodfield pleads not guilty, will get mental health exam

  • Javier Garcia

    Javier Garcia

  • A Schaumburg police officer stands guard where a man drove an SUV through a Sears entrance and into Woodfield Mall on Sept. 20.

      A Schaumburg police officer stands guard where a man drove an SUV through a Sears entrance and into Woodfield Mall on Sept. 20. Joe Lewnard | Staff Photographer

Updated 10/31/2019 6:18 PM

The Palatine man charged with driving his SUV into Woodfield Mall in Schaumburg entered a not guilty plea Thursday and will undergo a mental health examination.

Javier Garcia, 23, faces terrorism and criminal damage to property charges related to the Sept. 20 disturbance.


In a hearing in the Rolling Meadows Third Municipal District, Cook County Judge Joseph Cataldo agreed to a request by Garcia's attorney, Frank Avila, for the mental health examination. The judge also ordered that Garcia be evaluated at Cermak Health Services, the Cook County jail medical center.

"This case should be viewed through the prism of mental illness," Avila said after the hearing, adding that his client is "mentally ill and may have other cognitive issues."

Authorities say Garcia was admitted to Amita Health Behavioral Medicine Institute for several days after the disturbance.

Avila described the disturbance as an "unplanned, erratic event" and said the charges stem from politically motivated "grandstanding" and reflect a "loose use of the terrorism statute."

"To paraphrase Cook County Sheriff Tom Dart, mental illness is not a crime," he said, adding later, "We don't believe this is a terrorism case."

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Garcia is a U.S. citizen who has no religious or political motive, Avila said.

Authorities say Garcia entered Woodfield on foot through the Sears entrance, walked through the store and left. Minutes later, police say, he drove his SUV through the entrance and more than halfway through the mall. He came to a stop after striking columns and kiosks, they said. Two off-duty police officers detained him until Schaumburg police arrived.

No one was seriously injured, but authorities estimated Garcia caused more than $110,000 in damage.

Avila acknowledged the damage that resulted and that "what happened could have endangered human lives." He said Garcia's family is sorry for any fear witnesses experienced.

Garcia is being held without bail in Cook County jail. He next appears in court on Dec. 16.

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