The man accused of ramming his car into Times Square pedestrians, killing one woman and injuring 22 others on Thursday, has been charged with murder and attempted murder. Police are still trying to understand his motives and determine whether he was driving under the influence of drugs.
Richard Rojas, a 26-year-old Bronx resident, has been charged with second degree murder, 20 counts of second-degree attempted murder, and five counts of aggravated vehicular homicide for the terrifying carnage that unfolded at noon on May 18th. Police say Rojas drove his 2009 Honda Accord south on 7th Avenue and made a U-turn at 42nd Street—mounting the sidewalk. "The vehicle, occupied by a male driver, proceeded to drive at a high rate of speed along the sidewalk from 42nd Street to 45th Street, striking a number of pedestrians along the way," the NYPD said in a statement. "The Honda eventually came to a stop on the northwest corner of West 45th Street, where it collided with a metal stanchion."
Rojas allegedly ran over 23 pedestrians. One, 18-year-old Alyssa Elsman, a tourist from Michigan, was killed while 22 others, including Elsman's 13-year-old sister, were injured. Graphic surveillance footage shows the car barreling into people [warning, this footage is extremely disturbing]:
When Rojas got out of the car, he started to run from the scene but was tackled by traffic cops and civilians. Ken Bradix, who oversees security at the nearby Planet Hollywood, was one of the good Samaritans who stopped Rojas. He said, "It was somewhat of a knee-jerk reaction. I did what any civic-minded person would do. In short, I just wanted to do the right thing." Another was a Gray Line tour bus employee:
— Azi (@Azi) May 18, 2017
Bradix added that Rojas "was screaming—no particular words—but he was screaming and flailing his arms in all kinds of directions."
— Nick Spano (@NickSpano) May 18, 2017
Officials revealed that Rojas, a Navy veteran, had recently been arrested for menacing, for allegedly pulling a knife on a stranger and saying "Do you feel safe?" on a Bronx street. He also had two drunk driving arrests.
Law enforcement sources told the AP that Rojas claimed to have heard voices while CNN's sources say he was on PCP and that God told him to do it. "Police sources tell CBS2 that Rojas passed the breathalyzer test. But sources said Rojas initially tested positive for marijuana. Further testing was under way late Thursday to determine whether there were any additional drugs in his system," reports WCBS 2.
Harrison Ramos, a friend, told DNAinfo that Rojas started drinking excessively after getting out of the Navy. “Once he got back here, he felt like he was unappreciated. He served his country but it was hard for him to come back and find a job. He was having a lot of bad nightmares — just crazy thoughts... he would talk about demons and devils and conspiracies. His medication was drinking liquor.
"Those crazy thoughts, I guess he didn’t want to think them, so he was drinking, drinking, drinking. I saw him about a week ago, and asked him 'how’s everything?' He just seemed a little lost in the world," Ramos said.