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Auto drives wrong way in Times Square, ploughs into pedestrians
20 May 2017, 03:55 | Terri Saunders
This tilted red sedan drove into a crowded Times Square injuring several and killing one
The body of a young woman identified as Alyssa Elsman, 18, a visitor from Portage, Michigan, lay covered with a bloodstained sheet at 43rd Street.
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 has several prior criminal cases that paint a picture of a troubled man.
A neighborhood friend in the Bronx, Harrison Ramos, said Rojas wasn't the same when he came back from the Navy in 2014.
The suspect, Richard Rojas, of the Bronx, tested positive for PCP and told police that God made him do it, a law enforcement source told CNN.
Officials were quick on Thursday to dismiss the possibility of a terrorist attack, describing the tragedy as an isolated incident.
The 26-year-old was in custody Thursday.
Witnesses said the motorist mounted the sidewalk in a burgundy Honda saloon vehicle and sped along more than three city blocks, knocking people over before the auto hit a pole and came to rest at 45th Street and Broadway in Midtown Manhattan.
Times Square, full of restaurants, shops and entertainment, is a popular tourist destination in New York City, attracting hundreds of thousands of pedestrians on a daily basis.
After he was detained, he said he wanted to "kill them all" and police should have shot him to stop him, a prosecutor said in court Friday.
The report said in the back of the squad vehicle, Rojas admitted to the officer that he had "beaten the s**t out of that cab driver and I'll tell you why - he said I owe him $162". The officials said Rojas told officers he had been hearing voices. Her 13-year-old sister was among the 22 injured.
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The officials weren't authorized to speak publicly and spoke to The Associated Press on condition of anonymity.
New York Police say they don't suspect a link to terrorism, but a bomb squad was called as a precaution to check the wreckage.
The high-speed 11:55 a.m. crash - which authorities initially said appeared accidental, and which is not believed related to global terrorism - left an 18-year-old woman dead at the scene and another 22 injured, New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio told reporters.
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.
Officials said there is no indication the incident was terror related.
Navy records show Rojas enlisted in September 2011 and was based in IL and Florida, working as an electrician's mate fireman apprentice.
Rojas was also arrested on suspicion of battery in 2012 at the Mayport Naval Base in Jacksonville, Florida, where he was stationed at the time.
Navy records show that in 2013 Rojas spent two months at a naval prison in Charleston, South Carolina.
The auto came to rest with two of its wheels in the air, leaning on a lamppost and steel barriers meant to block vehicles from getting onto the sidewalk. People quickly started trying to help the injured victims.
A auto traveling through Times Square has driven into a crowd of pedestrians, injuring several people.
There was no immediate word from New York City police on the number of people who were hurt.
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