The man who drove his SUV through the Woodfield Mall in Schaumburg last month had been released from a mental health facility the previous day, still suffering from hallucinations, hearing voices and having suicidal thoughts, relatives say.
Javier Garcia, 22, was diagnosed with paranoid schizophrenia and bipolar disorder three years ago and has been in and out of mental health facilities since then, his sister Noemi Garcia told the Sun-Times Wednesday.
“Just in the last two months my brother has been to three different inpatient centers,” she said.
“After a week they would release him, with Javier still coming home to us telling us that he didn’t feel safe, that he still kept hearing voices, that he still had suicidal thoughts and it’s just like an every day battle,” she said.
“He says he feels he’s not ready and he doesn’t feel safe but he’s still being released anyway,” she said. “He has a hard time telling what’s real and what’s not real.”
Asked if the voices ever directed Garcia to harm others, she said: “He’s never mentioned anything like that, it’s always been towards him.”
Interruptions to Medicaid coverage also were a hurdle to getting help, she said.
Garcia was charged with felony counts of terrorism and criminal damage to property. He’s being held without bail at the Cook County Jail.
“There’s a lot of speculation that he’s a bad person and that he’s a terrorist and that’s not what my brother is,” she said.
“I feel like the system failed him. ... Being in jail is not the place he should be at to get the treatment and the medication that he needs,” she added. “My brother has never had an impulsive or violent behavior, that’s not him.”
Noemi Garcia said her brother is a peaceful person who enjoys painting, swimming and playing basketball.
“He is like the bravest, most sweetest guy in the world,” she said, noting that his life took a turn when he dropped out of Palatine High School in 2015 and was diagnosed with mental illness the next year.
Family members, believing his mental illness was to blame, are upset Garcia was charged with terrorism.
“It’s an injustice,” Garcia’s father, Adnan Garcia said in Spanish as his daughter translated.
“My son is sick and he’s not well and he needs help. And either the government or Medicaid or someone to just be able to help him live a normal life,” he said.
“That’s what I wish for my son, instead of being labeled with what he’s being charged with — to get the help that he needs.”
On the advice of Garcia’s attorney, Amil Alkass, neither Garcia’s father nor his sister would discuss what might have motivated Garcia to drive into the mall.
He drove more than halfway through the mall, causing about $110,000 worth of damages, but no one was struck.
Garcia, who is unemployed and lives with his father in Palatine, has no criminal record.