Updated: Aug 30, 2021
by Jake Griffin, Daily Herald
Schaumburg Mayor Tom Dailly says the village will demand all entrances to Woodfield Mall feature protective barriers to prevent cars or trucks from crashing through the way an SUV did Friday afternoon in a chaotic scene that luckily caused no serious injuries.
"We had suggested that they be installed in the past," Dailly said Saturday. "It's no longer going to be an ask."
Many on social media Friday questioned why all the mall's entrances weren't outfitted with the barriers already.
Some entrances at the mall have been protected by the reinforced posts about three feet high, but several others have not had them, mainly in front of the mall's retail anchor tenants like Sears, J.C. Penney and Macy's.
Dailly added police and mall management are discussing other security improvements that also might thwart any future vehicle assaults. That includes potential landscaping improvements or changes to traffic patterns.
Woodfield issued a statement Sunday morning saying the lack of barriers outside the Sears entrance was a decision by the retailer, not the mall.
"All mall entrances have bollards installed," the statement reads. "However, the Sears property is owned by Sears, not the mall. Therefore the decision regarding whether or not to install bollards at their entrance is up to them. With respect to the mayor, he should direct his comments to Sears which owns its store. Further, we are unaware of any previous discussions with the mayor regarding bollards."
A Sears representative was not immediately available Sunday for comment.
The iconic Woodfield Mall, owned by the Simon Property Group headquartered in Indianapolis, is the 10th largest enclosed shopping center in the country, according to Traveljee.com, and draws an estimated 27 million visits a year.
The roughly 300 stores, specialty shops, restaurants and other amenities are set on more than two million-square-feet of indoor space.
"There are always ways (to strengthen security) that are cost effective and have minimal effect on a customer's ability to get in and out of the building," said Katherine Schweit, a security consultant and former FBI special agent. "There are simple solutions, like bollards (barrier posts), that can be the difference between life and death and they just need to be budgeted in. But it's a struggle sometimes to budget for things that seem so unlikely to happen."
Police said a still unidentified 22-year-old suburban man drove an SUV through the Sears entrance on the mall's west side at about 2:20 p.m. Friday. The vehicle careened through the store before entering the mall common area, narrowly missed a train filled with children and then caromed off storefronts and kiosks before coming to a stop. The driver was subdued by shoppers, including two off-duty police officers.
"Good for them that we have people that were gutsy enough to take action on their own," Dailly said. "That's what this country needs more of."
The suspect remains in custody and was transported to Amita Health Behavioral Medicine Institute for treatment. The duration of his treatment is unknown and no charges will be authorized until his release.
Three people were taken to the hospital in the aftermath for medical issues that were not life threatening nor a result of them being struck by the vehicle, police said.
By Saturday morning, the mall had reopened with barely any indication of the pandemonium that had unfolded less than 24 hours prior. Outside of the cosmetic damage to the Sears entrance, as well as a couple windows at Forever 21 and Hollister, shoppers Saturday could barely tell Friday's dramatic events ever happened. The Sears entrance was boarded up, but an entry way had been cut out to allow shoppers access. Scores of shoppers stopped to take pictures of the damaged storefront before heading into the mall through the reopened entrance.
Even workers who had experienced the terror Friday were back on the job Saturday.
"The first thing I thought of when I saw him coming through the mall toward the middle was that he had a bomb," said Abram Taylor, a district manager for I-Mobile Sprint, which operates a kiosk at Woodfield that was smashed by the driver. "There was all this yelling and commotion and I just thought I had to get out of there."
Taylor said he was "amazed" the mall had been fixed so quickly, but he noted people were still bringing him items that were knocked from his kiosk Friday and turning up during Saturday morning's cleanup.
Shoppers seemed unfazed by the preceding day's hullabaloo, and marveled at how quickly everything seemed to return to normal at the massive retail complex.
"We were really surprised to see there wasn't more damage," said Mariana Colin of Elgin, who was at the mall to shop for shoes. "We definitely thought it was going to be a lot worse."