UPDATE: The 22-year-old driver is being treated at AMITA Health Behavioral Medicine Institute, according to Schaumburg police. The duration of his treatment is unknown, and police say no charges will be authorized until his release.
Schaumburg Mayor Tom Dailly said Saturday evening the village will demand all entrances to Woodfield Mall feature protective barriers to prevent cars or trucks from crashing into the shopping mall.
September 21, 2019 Schaumburg Police have still not released the name of a man they suspect drove a black SUV through the Woodfield Mall on Friday. The ease in which the driver was able to do so has thrust the mall’s security into the spotlight.
During a news conference Friday night, Schaumburg Police Chief, Bill Wolf said the 22-year-old man who drove the SUV into a Sears store and continued on into the mall’s common area acted alone.
While surveillance footage shows the driver was inside Woodfield mall shortly before the crash, there is no indication the attack was pre-planned. The incident does not appear to be terrorism-related. Investigators are looking into the possibility the driver had a medical issue.
While many of Woodfield mall’s entrances have security barriers or bollards that would block a car from coming through, apparently none were directly in front of the lower-level Sears entrance.
“This is something we will work with the mall to increase security and prevent something like this from happening again,” Chief Wolf said.
SHOPPING MALLS ARE TERRORIST TARGETS
Worldwide, shopping malls have long been a favorite target of terrorists. Since 9/11, U.S. law enforcement agencies claim to have disrupted several plots in the planning stages.
Counterterrorism raids have uncovered detailed plans to attack American shopping malls including photographs, maps and architectural plans.
EVIDENCE OF LOCAL PLOTS
In 2006, police foiled a terrorist plot targeting CherryVale Mall in Rockford, Illinois. The attack was planned to take place during the Christmas season. In 2004, information that shopping malls in Los Angeles and Chicago were targeted during the Christmas season was leaked to the public.
Government agencies generally do not favor releasing such critical information, because they don’t want to alarm public—due to the potential harm it may cause the U.S. economy.
In 2015, al-Shabaab, an al-Qaeda affiliated terrorist group released an online video calling for attacks on Western shopping malls. The Mall of America in Bloomington, Minnesota is mentioned specifically in the video.
The U.S. Department of Homeland Security notified local police in major cities, including Chicago and New York about the al-Shabaab threat.
According to the U.S. Department of Homeland Security, al-Shabaab has successfully recruited more American citizens than any other terrorist organization, the majority from a small Minnesota town. The group’s capability to carry out large scale attacks on soft targets such as shopping malls and hotels is well established.
On this day in 2013, al-Shabaab launched a brazen attack on the upscale Westgate Shopping Mall in Kenya that killed 71 innocent people and injured hundreds more.
Schaumburg Police said Friday night there is no evidence suggesting the Woodfield Mall attack was an act of terrorism. There is also nothing to suggest it was not.
Since the creation of the U.S. Department of Homeland Security, billions of dollars in DHS grants have been awarded to state and local governments across the country. County and local law enforcement agencies have the discretion to spend the grants on privately owned public space.
In an interview in 2008, then Bloomington, Minnesota Police Chief, John Laux said he used some DHS grant money to install bollards outside the Mall of America.
Where there is a credible threat—there is an obligation.
Woodfield Mall patrons, including two off duty police officers sprung into action and subdued the driver until police arrived. Miraculously, there were no serious injuries in Friday’s shopping mall incident. Next time, we won’t be so lucky.