A man who drove a vehicle along three blocks of pavement in New York’s Times Square, killing a woman and injuring 22 people, said he had “heard voices”, according to law enforcement sources.
The city’s fire department said there were 13 casualties.
A man with a history of drunken driving, has been charged with murder after police say he barreled a vehicle through the crowded sidewalks in Manhattan’s Time Square, leaving one person dead and injuring 22. Viewer discretion is strongly advised.
Rojas was charged with one count of murder in the second-degree, aggravated vehicular homicide and multiple counts of attempted murder, a NY police spokesman said in an email late on Thursday. He was in custody, and it wasn’t clear if he had an attorney yet who could comment on his behalf.
Witnesses have described Rojas as “driving like a madman” and was heard screaming before making mounting the footpath.
In the Bronx, neighbourhood acquaintances said Rojas was a friendly man who had been having problems.
Preliminary tests show Rojas, a US citizen and resident of the Bronx, was under the influence of the mood-altering drug PCP, law enforcement sources told the New York Times and CNN.
The apartment building where Rojas lives was cordoned off by police Thursday.
“You’re trying to steal my identity”, he said, according to prosecutors.
Mayor Bill de Blasio said in addition to the woman killed, another 22 people were injured in the crash.
Pedestrians had little time to react as the auto went the wrong way up the pavement before smashing into a row of steel security barriers installed in recent years to prevent vehicle attacks on the square.
He said he saw about five people who looked gravely injured – “people, really bad, in front of us”. He leapt out of the way to avoid being struck.
Shoes were scattered on the sidewalk. A woman’s body lay covered with a bloodstained blanket.
Police say Elsman’s 13-year-old sister was among the people who were struck but survived.
A bouncer from a Planet Hollywood restaurant and a ticket agent were among onlookers who helped police subdue the suspect when he tried to flee the scene, media reports said.
“He’s been going through a real tough time”, he said.
Rojas enlisted in the Navy in 2011. He was discharged in 2014 as the result of a special court martial, a Navy official said. Rojas was charged with misdemeanour battery and resisting an officer without violence, but it was unclear how the case was resolved.
Navy records show he spent two months in a military prison in Charleston, South Carolina, in the summer of 2013 but do not specify why. He left the Navy in May 2014.
Richard Rojas, the 26-year-old suspect, was taken into custody after he allegedly mounted the sidewalk on Seventh Avenue in Manhattan, plowing through pedestrians at high speeds, creating a chaotic and terrifying scene amid the afternoon lunch rush at one of the busiest intersections in the world.
The auto was lodged on a steel bollard – of which there are more than 200 on Times Square sidewalks to stop vehicles from coming through. She and her daughter were shopping when the auto sped toward them.
“I’m so freaked out!” “They mowed everyone down”. He pleaded guilty last week to harassment in the Bronx after he was accused of pulling a knife on a notary in his home.
Six months ago the city completed a $55 million, almost six-year renovation of Times Square that turned roadways into pedestrian zones. It aimed to improve congestion and safety, but not all sidewalks were fitted with safety bollards.