Man who drove SUV through Woodfield Mall gets 7-year sentence

Javier Garcia and a video grab of the SUV he drove into Woodfield Mall. | IDOC; RoninD

Years after he drove an SUV into a suburban Chicago shopping mall, crashing into storefronts and sending patrons running for their lives, Javier Garcia has pleaded guilty to felony criminal damage to property, according to court records.

Garcia, 27, faced two counts of Class X felony terrorism for the September 2019 incident at Woodfield Mall in Schaumburg, but prosecutors dropped those charges in a plea deal.

Witnesses called 911 after Garcia plowed an SUV into the Sears entrance, drove through the store, and continued driving down the mall, striking kiosks and storefronts along the way. Social media videos showed patrons running to get out of the way and flocking to exits, some believing that a gunman was loose in the mall.

No injuries were reported.

Prosecutors claimed Garcia searched the internet 124 times for Woodfield-related topics within 24 hours of the incident. Despite the state terrorism charges, investigators never found any evidence that Garcia was involved in extremist ideologies or acted with terrorist intentions.

Rather, his family and attorney long argued, he suffered from mental health challenges that culminated with the mall incident. The case lingered in criminal court for years while Garcia remained in custody and underwent treatment, making him fit for trial.

This month, he pleaded guilty to the criminal damage charge in exchange for a seven-year sentence from Judge Joseph Cataldo. Garcia also pleaded guilty to arson in connection with a separate incident in which he set fire to a truck in Palatine. Cataldo handed him a concurrent seven-year term for that case.

Garcia’s sentence, reduced by 50% for good behavior, was satisfied by the 1,475 credit days he earned while awaiting trial. He was released from Stateville Correctional Center on October 11, the same day he arrived.

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Tim Hecke is CWBChicago's managing partner. He started his career at KMOX, the legendary news radio station in St. Louis. From there, he moved on to work at stations in Minneapolis, Chicago, and New York City. Tim went on to build syndicated radio news and content services that served every one of America's 100 largest radio markets. He became CWBChicago's managing partner in 2019. His email address is