Suspect in deadly Times Square mayhem charged with murder

Pauline Gross
May 20, 2017

A man accused of steering his auto on to one of the busiest pavements in the USA and mowing down pedestrians has been charged with murder and attempted murder.

A U.S. Navy veteran plowed his auto into pedestrians in New York City's packed Times Square yesterday, killing an 18-year-old woman and injuring 22 people.

The person who was killed was identified by police as 18-year-old Alyssa Elsman of Portage, Michigan.

The mayor told WNYC Radio Friday that Rojas had "demonstrated mental health issues going back to childhood" that "went unaddressed even during the time he was in the USA military".

A Navy official says Richard Rojas had been discharged as the result of a special court martial.

Times Square, next to the famed Broadway theater district, is one of the most popular tourist attractions in the United States financial capital and where police stepped up patrols in recent years after a auto bomb was planted in 2010.

A bouncer from the Planet Hollywood restaurant and a ticket agent were among onlookers who helped police subdue the suspect when he tried to flee the scene, media reports said.

Richard Rojas, 26, plowed into people on the sidewalk in his burgundy Honda sedan and sped three blocks through one of the city's busiest areas, killing one pedestrian and injuring 22 before crashing into a metal stanchion, police said.

One official says Rojas told authorities when arrested previously that he believed he was being followed.

Rojas has several prior criminal cases that paint a picture of a troubled man. In 2013, Rojas - while in the Navy - pleaded guilty to drunken driving, failure to pay a just debt, drunk and disorderly conduct and communicating a threat.

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Rojas initially tested negative for alcohol, but more detailed drug tests were pending, according to two law enforcement officials who were not authorized to speak publicly and spoke to The Associated Press on the condition of anonymity. "I wanted to kill them", law enforcement sources quoted the accused as telling police following his arrest, the BBC wrote.

In addition to the murder charge, Rojas also faces 20 counts of attempted murder and five counts of aggravated vehicular homicide, according to a statement from the New York City Police Department. Rojas' lawyer, Enrico Demarco, had no comment. Police Commissioner James O'Neill says the crash doesn't appear to be related to terrorism.

Elizabeth Long, of Dayton, Ohio, told CNN she was walking to the Hard Rock Cafe when she saw a maroon vehicle heading toward her on the sidewalk.

The sidewalks around Times Square are secured with more than 200 steel bollards meant to prevent accidental or criminal vehicle intrusions, said Rob Reiter, chief security consultant for CalPipe Security Bollards.

The cab driver, who was hospitalized, said Rojas had refused to pay a cab fare of $44.

"It looked like at least a dozen people that were injured".

The official told The Associated Press that the driver was taken into custody after the Thursday lunchtime crash and is being tested for alcohol.

Pandemonium erupted when the vehicle barrelled through the prime tourist location and came to rest with two of its wheels in the air.

Times Square was evacuated in May 2010 when a vehicle bomb that failed to explode was found in an SUV.

Television images taken at the scene midday Thursday showed people being taken away on stretchers.

Other reports by GizPress

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