A man accused of driving an SUV through an Illinois mall as terrified shoppers scrambled away has now been charged with terrorism.
Police said on Saturday that 22-year-old Javier Garcia would face terrorism charges for the incident that was caught on video earlier this month. Police say Garcia drove through the Woodfield Mall in suburban Chicago on September 20 in an incident that captured national attention. The incident left three people injured, though police said that the SUV never struck any shoppers and none of the injuries were considered life-threatening.
The driver was eventually stopped by shoppers, including two off-duty police officers, CNN reported.
Police have still not divulged any information about a possible motive in the mall attack. As the CNN report noted, police initially seemed to rule out terrorism in the attack, noting that Garcia gave no indication that he meant to terrorize shoppers at the mall. Police had added at the time of the attack that the 22-year-old was briefly inside the mall before driving his car slowly through the inside, but said there was no evidence that he may have been casing the shopping center as part of a planned attack.
Video of the attack gained viral interest in the hours afterward, with many shoppers capturing the slow-moving SUV on video and showing the panic that ensued as shoppers scrambled to get away from it.
So this just happened at Woodfield. I’m safe. Jesus Christ pic.twitter.com/fOfhtPkWvr— ronin (@nipsfalloff) September 20, 2019
Witnesses said the incident left them shaken.
“To see all the panic, it was definitely frightening. You hear about this stuff on the news all the time, and wouldn’t expect it to come so close to where you live,” witness Nikko Danz told The Chicago Tribune. “It’s a messed up situation.”
The mall attack came after a series of other terrorist attacks using vehicles as weapons. Perhaps the most famous took place in France in 2016, when a man drove a cargo truck through crowds of people celebrating Bastille day on the Promenade des Anglais in Nice. The attack left 86 people dead and hundreds injured.
Another car attack took place the following year in Charlottesville, Virginia, where white nationalist James Alex Fields drove his car through a crowd of counter protesters after the conclusion of a series of demonstrations in the city. The attack left one dead, and Fields was later convicted of murder and was given two separate life sentences — one from a Virginia court and another for federal charges.
In Illinois, mall attack suspect Javier Garcia remains in jail after being denied bail.