A man accused of driving an SUV through a suburban Chicago shopping mall is facing a state terrorism charge, authorities announced Sunday. Police in Schaumburg announced early Sunday that the Cook County state’s attorney had authorized the charge against Javier Garcia, 22, of Palatine, Illinois.
Garcia also was charged with felony criminal damage to property. Garcia was scheduled to appear in bond court Sunday.
Under Illinois law, the Class X felony of terrorism can apply if the suspect is believed to have caused more than $100,000 in damage to any building containing five or more businesses, according to a statement issued by Schaumburg Police Sergeant Karen McCarthy. Class X felonies can carry sentences of up to 30 years in prison.
No federal charges have been brought against Garcia.
Garcia’s state charges of terrorism are unusual and its not clear why the state has brought them against him. Individuals who commit violent acts are usually indicted on different federal or state charges like hate crimes or weapons possession. This is because domestic terrorism is defined in the U.S. legal code but not codified as a law that can be prosecuted.
The FBI defines domestic terrorism as acts “perpetrated by individuals and/or groups inspired by or associated with primarily U.S.-based movements that espouse extremist ideologies of a political, religious, social, racial, or environmental nature.”
The 2001 USA Patriot Act defines domestic terrorism as a dangerous act occurring within U.S. territory that violates criminal laws in ways that are “intended to intimidate or coerce a civilian population; influence the policy of a government by intimidation or coercion; affect the conduct of a government by mass destruction, assassination or kidnapping.”
The FBI has recorded close to 100 domestic terrorist arrests in the first nine months of this year, according to the Washington Post, citing Senate testimony in July from FBI Director Christopher Wray. And it has 850 open investigations tied to domestic terrorism, a senior FBI counterterrorism official told CBS News.
Authorities have not yet determined why Garcia allegedly drove into the mall and claim that he wasn’t targeting any specific store or person. Investigators said in a statement they “believe Garcia acted alone, no motive has been determined.” He was released to police custody on Friday from the AMITA Health Behavioral Institute.
Video of the September 20 incident posted on social media shows shoppers running for safety in the corridors of the Woodfield Mall as the black Chevy Trailblazer plowed through.
The SUV’s driver entered the mall by smashing through the front door of a Sears store. The vehicle drove over a kiosk and struck a Forever 21 store. Shortly after the incident, Schaumburg Police Chief Bill Wolf said the suspect may have been suffering from a medical condition.