ROLLING MEADOWS, Ill. (WLS) -- Woodfield Mall driver Javier Garcia's sister and father are speaking out for the first time. They sat down with ABC7 Eyewitness News to share their story and heartbreak.
"My brother is not a terrorist," said Noemi Garcia, Javier's sister.
The 22-year-old Palatine man is charged with one count of state terrorism after he drove his SUV through the Sears entrance on September 20, causing havoc as he drove through the shopping center for several minutes. At the time, Schaumburg police appeared to dismiss terrorism as a motive and Garcia was sent to a mental health institution for a week before being charged.
"The label they're putting on him. It's really upsetting," Noemi said. "I really feel like he got failed by the system. The state's attorneys are not taking into consideration his mental illness."
One of four close-knit siblings, raised by their single father, his family said Javier is a diagnosed schizophrenic. He's been in treatment for more than three years, but, despite their best efforts, in the last couple of months things have gotten significantly worse.
"He's been to three in-patients," said Noemi. "Three different inpatients and they keep him there for a week and then it's the same thing all over again. He's still hearing voices, he's still having suicidal thoughts. He's still not in the right state of mind."
Schaumburg police acknowledge that Garcia does not have any extremist affiliations or background. The FBI investigated the incident, but did not file charges. However, according to Illinois State Law, a terrorism charge is possible when an act committed against a building containing five or more businesses results in over $100,000 in property damage.
In addition, prosecutors point to 124 Woodfield Mall-related searches Garcia is said to have made on his phone in the 24 hours before the incident.
"I'm devastated," said Garcia's father Adan in Spanish. "There are times I'd like to throw in the towel, but I can't. My son needs me. He needs help."
If convicted Garcia faces anywhere from 20 years to life in prison. His next court appearance is October 18, at which time he's expected to plead not guilty to the charges against him.
Woodfield Mall terrorism charge for Javier Garcia too severe, defense attorneys say
Man, 22, charged with terrorism after driving SUV through Woodfield Mall: Police
Woodfield Mall incident: Sears' unprotected doors 'unusual' in today's world, security experts say
Man suspected of driving SUV into Woodfield Mall in custody at mental health facility: Schaumburg police
SUV drives through Woodfield Mall in Schaumburg, 1 in custody, minor injuries reported: police
Family of Woodfield Mall driver Javier Garcia speaks for 1st time: 'My brother is not a terrorist'