Police in Illinois have filed terrorism charges against a 22-year-old Latino man accused of plowing his SUV into a Sears before zooming past frantic shoppers and kiosks inside the Woodfield Mall last week.
However, the charges have sparked outrage among some critics.
Suspect Javier Garcia appeared in court Sunday where a judge denied him bond, according to CBS Chicago. Garcia, who family members said struggles with mental illness, was recently released from AMITA Health Behaviorals Medicine Institute and turned over to Schaumburg Police custody following the Sept. 20 incident.
The suspect is now charged with a Class X felony of terrorism, which, under state law, is defined as “any act that causes substantial damage (amounting to $100,000 or more) to any building containing fives or more businesses.”
In addition to terrorism, Garcia also faces a felony count of criminal damage to property.
Witness video from inside the mall shows Garcia’s black SUV moving erratically through the middle of the retail center, sending shoppers running for their lives. The suspect struck the entrance to Forever 21 before flooring it once more, this time barreling into a beam outside a Clark’s shoe store.
BREAKING VIDEO: Car reportedly drives into Woodfield Mall in Chicago pic.twitter.com/Q50stvBaED— world_buzztv (@Worldbuzz_tv) September 20, 2019
“Stop driving! Stop driving!” someone shouts as Garcia takes off, sending the contents of a nearby kiosk crashing to the ground.
“Yo, this isn’t happening right now!” another shopper says in disbelief. “What the f—k! Oh my gosh.”
According to Cook County prosecutors, Garcia had searched “Woodfield Mall” 124 times online, including aerial views of the shopping center and stores, including Sears. Officials said the suspect was spotted inside the department store the day of the attack but didn’t make a purchase. Rather he left and re-entered the mall by crashing his car through the front door of the Sears just minutes later.
That’s when Garcia went on a rampage, narrowly missing a group of children aboard the mall’s train attraction, according to prosecutors.
So far, local authorities believe the young man acted alone but are still searching for a motive.
“Police have no reason to believe Garcia was targeting any specific person and/or store within Sears or Woodfield Mall,” Schaumberg Police said in a news release.
The state’s charges of terrorism have sparked concerns among critics who pointed to prosecutors’ quickness to charge Garcia while the same priority isn’t given to white suspects who actually commit acts of terrorism. Even CBS News described the charges as “unusual,” noting that those who commit violent acts are typically indicted on different federal or state charges like weapons possession or hate crimes.
“F—ing absurd,” one critic tweeted in response to the charges. “Law enforcement throws the word terrorism around so freely whenever it’s a man of color (that only damaged property!) but WHITE MEN who mow people down w/military style weapons are ‘mentally ill.’ Just more systemic racism.”
“This is #terrorism but #massshootings are not?,” another user opined, adding: “the #browntax is included, I got it.”
One critic argued that if the suspect were white, “it would be a regular crime.”
“Seems as though the elephant in the room is that POC lives are not valued as much as property damage,” another wrote. “Either that or the court system is set up so these “men” who commonly mass murder don’t have their lives ‘ruined.’ “
Garcia’s next court hearing is scheduled for Tuesday.
Watch more in the video below.