Prosecutors: Times Square driver wanted to 'kill them all'

Cheryl Sanders
May 21, 2017

A man accused of mowing down a crowd of pedestrians with his vehicle in Times Square has made his first appearance in court charged with murder and attempted murder.

The New York Police Department says 26-year-old Richard Rojas, of the Bronx, was charged late Thursday with second-degree murder, 20 counts of attempted murder and aggravated vehicular homicide.

Photographers snapped pictures of a wild-eyed Rojas on Thursday after he climbed from the wrecked vehicle and ran through the streets.

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

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

Rojas was arrested on charges of driving while intoxicated in 2008 and 2015, Police Commissioner James O'Neill said, losing his licence for 90 days. He was also detained earlier this month for menacing.

A smashed auto 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.

A man has been charged after a woman was killed by a auto that plowed through at least 22 people Thursday in Times Square. A witness told The Associated Press Rojas was screaming and swinging his arms before he was taken down.

"Once I got close enough to him, that's when he proceeded to attack me", said the cab driver, who asked not to be identified.

Friend Zachary Anderson told WXMI Alyssa was a "very good person", who always looked out for others. Harrison Ramos said Rojas was not the same when he came back from active duty in 2014.

Rojas initially tested negative for alcohol, but more detailed drug tests are pending, according to officials.

De Blasio, a progressive Democrat seeking re-election this year, said authorities would assess whether they needed to step up security to stop similar incidents from happening in the future.

Navy records show Rojas enlisted in September 2011 and was based in IL and Florida, working as an electrician's mate fireman apprentice.

A man who sent his vehicle careening onto a Times Square sidewalk filled with pedestrians had been court-martialed out of the Navy.

Grief counselors are at Alyssa Elsman's MI high school Friday, offering support to students and staff. Navy records show that in 2013 he spent two months at a naval prison in Charleston, S.C. They don't indicate why.

The police report from 2012 said Rojas also threatened to kill police and military police that were involved in his arrest in Jacksonville.

An 18-year-old MI woman died and 22 other people were injured when the vehicle barreled up the sidewalk.

TOPSHOT - A police officer tries to take pictures of the scene as other police officers secure the area near a auto after it plunged into pedestrians in Times Square in NY on May 18, 2017.

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