Man who ran over pedestrians was 'hearing voices'

Alain Brian
Mai 20, 2017

First responders work at the scene in Times Square where a vehicle struck several pedestrian, May 18, 2017, in NY.

A Honda Accord driven by a Bronx resident, Richard Rojas, plowed through a crowded Times Square sidewalk, killing one person and injuring 22, police said.

Richard Rojas was charged with one count of second-degree murder, 20 counts of attempted murder, and five counts of aggravated vehicular homicide.

The deadly rampage on Thursday started after the driver allegedly made a U-turn, then steered the auto into the packed sidewalk where it rammed dozens of pedestrians for a three block stretch.

CCTV footage has emerged of the moment the former Navy officer drove "like a madman" the wrong way up Seventh Avenue, along the pavement for three blocks, killing 18-year-old Alyssa Elsman.

An 18-year-old woman was killed and at least 22 people were injured when a speeding vehicle plowed into pedestrians, city officials said.

Rojas is to be arraigned Friday. It wasn't clear if he a lawyer.

He has previously been discharged from the U.S. Navy following disciplinary problems.

Rojas is said to have told detectives: "You were supposed to shoot me!"

He emerged from his auto, screaming and jumping up and down before he was subdued by bystanders and nearby police, witnesses said.

He says the driver was "just mowing down people".

One neighbor says Rojas is a "good person" and he doesn't know what happened to him.

Rojas attended college and works in real estate, Ramos said.

The carnage raised immediate fears of terrorism, fuddled by recent attacks in England, France and Germany in which vehicles ploughed through crowds of pedestrians.

"There is no indication that this was an act of terrorism", Mayor Bill de Blasio said.

Rojas has several prior criminal cases that paint a picture of a troubled man.

A week ago he was arrested and charged with pointing a knife at a notary, whom he accused of stealing his identity. He pleaded guilty to harassment, a violation, and was not sentenced to any prison time. A worker at Planet Hollywood and one other bystander are said to have helped police subdue Rojas.

Rojas has had multiple arrests, including two for driving while intoxicated, police said.

Times Square was packed with visitors enjoying one of the hottest days of the year when the attack began shortly before noon local time.

Rojas enlisted in the Navy in 2011 and was an electrician's mate fireman apprentice.

Law enforcement officials say a man accused of steering his auto onto one of the busiest sidewalks in the US and mowing down pedestrians for three blocks told police he was "hearing voices". They do not indicate why.

The 26-year-old driver from the Bronx was taken into custody and was undergoing tests for alcohol, a law enforcement official told The Associated Press. Details were not immediately available.

"There were a lot of people out, enjoying the good day, and then I heard screaming and the auto running over bodies", she said.

"People just got stunned", said Bruno Carvalho, a student at SUNY Albany.

Annette Proehl, of Pennsylvania, was in Times Square with children on a field trip when she heard the screeching tires of the vehicle and people screaming.

United States teenager Alyssa Elsman was killed in the tragedy.

Ms Elsman graduated past year from Portage Central High School. "She was bright. She was amusing".

The 26-year-old had just returned to the building 10 minutes before the speeding auto caused carnage.

A few hours after the Times Square incident, about 20 police officers and detectives occupied the sidewalk outside the six-story red brick building where Rojas lives.

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