Palatine man who drove through Woodfield mall now faces arson charges

The Palatine man who crashed his SUV through a Sears store's glass doors and drove through Woodfield Mall in September now faces arson charges stemming from a truck fire in Palatine nearly two weeks earlier.

The identification number on a container of lighter fluid found near the burned truck led to the new charges against Javier Garcia, 23, who's being held without bail at the Cook County jail.

Garcia pleaded not guilty to arson charges Monday in Rolling Meadows.

Palatine police received a call at 1:54 p.m. Sept. 8 of a fire in a truck located in a parking lot of an apartment complex at One Renaissance Place, Palatine police Cmdr. Dave Weeks said.

Witnesses say they saw "a male Hispanic running from the scene," Weeks said.

Police determined a T-shirt soaked in an accelerant had been stuffed into the truck's gas tank and ignited, Weeks said.

A container of lighter fluid was near the vehicle, and police obtained an identification number from the can and used it to determine the store where the lighter fluid was sold. From the store, police obtained surveillance video that captured the image of the person who bought the container.

Several weeks later, a comparison of the individual in the video from the Palatine store and in the video from the Sept. 20 disturbance at Woodfield Mall "revealed him to be the same person," Weeks said.

Authorities say the arson occurred nearly two weeks before the Schaumburg disturbance.

According to Schaumburg police, Garcia first entered Woodfield on foot through the Sears entrance on Sept. 20, walked through the store and left. Minutes later, police say, Garcia drove his SUV from the parking lot into the Sears entrance at an "exceedingly high rate of speed."

No one was injured. Garcia was admitted to Amita Health Behavioral Medicine Institute for several days.

Garcia's attorney Frank Avila says his client has a mental illness and might have other cognitive issues. He says his client is a U.S. citizen who has no religious or political motives.

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