Suspect in deadly Times Square mayhem charged with murder

Nick Mcbride
May 20, 2017

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

The driver who hit the pedestrians, 26-year-old Richard Rojas, was arrested.

A wrong-way driver plowed into pedestrians in the heart of Manhattan's bustling Times Square district minutes before noon Thursday, killing at least one person and injuring almost two dozen others, city officials said.

Eighteen-year-old tourist Alyssa Elsman, of Portage, Michigan, was killed in the crash.

Ms Elsman's boyfriend told the New York Post that the 18-year old visiting the Big Apple with a friend and her mother. Rojas was charged with misdemeanor battery and resisting an officer without violence, but it was unclear how the case was resolved.

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

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.

Police do not suspect a link to terrorism.

The picture that quickly emerged of Rojas from neighbors and authorities was of a man with problems.

Navy records also showed he spent two months in a military prison in Charleston, South Carolina, in the summer of 2013, but the reports did not elaborate on the reason.

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Officials said Rojas was arrested in 2008 and 2015 for driving under the influence, and in 2016 for menacing in different areas of NY.

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.

"Preliminarily it looks more like a vehicle accident than anything else", a NY police spokesman said.

Rojas was in custody and unable to comment.

He was expected to appear in court on Friday at an arraignment hearing. "That being said, we are reinforcing key locations around the city with our anti-terror units of the NYPD", he added.

Witnesses spoke of fear and panic as the vehicle hurtled through the crowd at the start of the lunch hour as people enjoyed one of the first warm days of summer in an area typically packed with tourists and office workers.

While some bystanders rushed to help the injured, others stood in silence, dazed for a moment before people started crying or shouting for help. "As facts continue to emerge, my heart goes out to the victims of this bad tragedy, as well as their families", New York Governor Andrew Cuomo said in a statement from the scene. He was taken from Midtown to the Seventh Precinct to undergo drug and alcohol testing. In previous arrests, he told authorities he believed he was being harassed and followed, one of the law enforcement officials said.

(AP Photo/Seth Wenig). A smashed vehicle sits on the corner of Broadway and 45th Street in New York's Times Square after ploughing through a crowd of pedestrians at lunchtime on Thursday, May 18, 2017.

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

"It's a tough day for New York City, but as usual, the people in New York City will stand firm and be resilient", de Blasio told reporters.

Other reports by VgToday

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