Woodfield Mall Attacker Charged with Terrorism

UPDATE: A Cook County Judge denied Javier Garcia bond on Sunday.

September 29, 2019 The man accused of driving an SUV through the Woodfield shopping mall in Schaumburg 9 days ago has been charged with terrorism. He also faces a felony count of criminal damage to property.

Javier Garcia, 22, is facing state terrorism charges in connection with an incident in which he drove a black SUV into Woodfield Mall last week, authorities announced on Sunday. Garcia will appear in bond court later today.

Surveillance footage shows Garcia inside Woodfield mall shortly before the crash, yet Schaumburg Police repeatedly argued there was no indication the attack was pre-planned. Authorities believed the driver had a medical issue.

Police have still not released a motive for the attack.

The ease in which Garcia was able to drive the SUV through Woodfield mall thrust the shopping mall’s security into the spotlight.

PERIMETER SECURITY

While many of Woodfield mall’s entrances have security barriers or bollards that would block a car from coming through, none were directly in front of the lower-level Sears entrance.

Woodfield mall issued a statement last week saying the lack of barriers outside the Sears entrance was a decision by the retailer, not the mall.

Schaumburg Mayor Tom Dailly said last week the village will demand all entrances to Woodfield Mall feature protective barriers to prevent cars or trucks from crashing into the shopping mall.

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 part of the DHS grant money allotted to his city to install bollards outside the Mall of America, the largest shopping mall in the country.  Where there is a credible threat—there is an obligation.

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 L. A. 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.

SPECIFIC THREATS

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.

In September 2013, al-Shabaab launched a brazen attack on the upscale Westgate Shopping Mall in Kenya that killed 71 innocent people and injured hundreds more.

STATE TERRORISM LAWS

It took over a week for Schaumburg Police to call the mall attack an act of terrorism. While authorities argued there was nothing to suggest the incident was an act of terrorism, there was also nothing to suggest it was not.

In the more than 18 years since the September 11, 2001 attacks on American soil, reluctance  by law enforcement agencies to call acts of domestic terrorism by name has become the norm. The lack of a federal definition of domestic terrorism has resulted in individual states enacting terrorism laws.

Prosecutors have been for the most part reluctant to charge individuals under state terrorism laws. Rather than charging domestic terrorists under relatively new statutes that lack precedent, prosecutors often opt for well established laws such as murder or attempted murder.

SEE ALSO: WOODFIELD MALL ATTACK PUTS SPOTLIGHT ON SECURITY

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