Driver in Times Square rampage charged with murder

A car hit pedestrians in Times Square on Thursday, killing one person and injuring 22 others. 

A 26-year-old man who was arraigned Friday on second-degree murder charges for allegedly steering his car onto a busy Times Square sidewalk, killing a Michigan tourist and injuring 22 people, said at the scene that he wanted to "kill them," according to prosecutors.

Richard Rojas, wearing the same red T-shirt and jeans he wore  at the time of the accident on Thursday, appeared subdued during a brief court appearance. He did not enter a plea and is due back in court next week.

According to a criminal complaint presented by prosecutors, Rojas displayed glassy eyes and slurred speech at the scene, telling an officer, "I smoked marijuana. I laced the marijuana with PCP."

The complaint said that Rojas at one point ran toward an officer, shouting, "I wanted to kill them."

Rojas, from the Bronx, has also been charged with 20 counts of attempted murder and aggravated vehicular homicide.

Mayor Bill de Blasio said there was “no indication that this was an act of terrorism,” but officials said it was unclear what motivated Rojas.

Officials said Rojas served in Navy but was discharged following disciplinary problems. He was arrested on charges of driving while intoxicated in 2008 and 2015, losing his license for 90 days, police Commissioner James O’Neill said.

Police said the rampage unfolded rapidly as Rojas allegedly drove his car at high speed for three blocks down Seventh Avenue, in the heart of Times Square, made a U-turn at 42nd Street and vaulted the curb, hitting the first victim.

Before plowing into steel security barriers and coming to a stop, the car struck nearly two dozen people in crowded Times Square, a daily magnet for thousands of tourists.

Dramatic video shows the maroon Honda Accord knocking down pedestrians, throwing bodies into the air as it careened through the crowd.

Alyssa Elsman, an 18-year-old high school student from Portage, Mich., was killed and her 13-year-old sister was injured.

After hitting the barricade, Rojas jumped out and began running, yelling and jumping before police and bystanders wrestled him to the ground.

“He began screaming, no particular words but just utter screaming," said Ken Bradix, a security supervisor at a nearby Planet Hollywood restaurant who tackled Rojas.

After his arrest, Rojas told police he was “hearing voices” and expected to die, according to two law enforcement officials who were not authorized to speak publicly and spoke to the Associated Press on the condition of anonymity.

He initially tested negative for alcohol, but more detailed drug tests were pending, the officials said.

Contributing: Associated Press

© 2017 USATODAY.COM


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