The sister of a man charged with terrorism for allegedly driving through Woodfield Mall earlier this month says her brother suffered from mental illness, but would never intentionally hurt someone.
Speaking for the first time in an interview with NBC 5 and Telemundo Chicago, Noemí García said she believes her brother was "failed by the system."
"My brother didn’t kill anyone," she said. "What he did is bad, but I know his intentions would never be to hurt anyone and I just know that that is a label that should not be put on him."
Javier Garcia, 22, faces charges of terrorism and criminal damage to property following the Sept. 20 incident in which he drove a vehicle through the inside of a popular suburban mall. He appeared in court Sunday where a judge ordered him held without bail, stating that mall damages were around $100,000.
A state terrorism charge carries a 20-life sentence if convicted.
"Based on nature of this case I do find you pose a threat to the community,” the judge said.
A search warrant on Garcia's phone revealed he searched the mall about 124 times, prosecutors said.
A total of 21 searches also came up regarding one of his former teachers, but it remained unclear if those searches were connected to the incident at Woodfield Mall.
Although a motive has yet to be determined, police said they have no reason to believe Garcia was targeting any specific person or store.
No one was struck by the car, but three people were taken to a hospital for “very minor” injuries, Schaumburg Police Chief Bill Wolf said.
Garcia has had no prior arrests nor a criminal background, however it seems he does suffer from mental illness, according to authorities.
His sister said Garcia suffers from paranoid schizophrenia and bipolar disorder and has symptoms of psychosis. He has been suffering from the mental illnesses for at least three years, she said.
"He’s had these mental illnesses and he’s been really strong and he’s been fighting them," she said. "He has a lot of hallucinations and hears a lot of voices. He has these times where he can't tell what’s real and not real."
Noemí García said she doesn't believe her brother would intentionally hurt someone.
"I was in distress because I just know that person is not my brother," she said. "The mental illness did take my brother because I can tell you who my brother is and my brother is not in the right state of mind at the moment."