The man accused of driving into a large crowd in New York’s Time Square is now charged with second-degree murder. Richard Rojas is also facing five counts of aggravated vehicular homicide and 20 counts of attempted murder.
Police sources tell the New York station, WCBS, that Rojas made rambling statements after being arrested. They also described him as emotionally disturbed. Rojas passed a breathalyzer test, but an initial test came up positive for marijuana. According to the Associated Press, Rojas told police he was “hearing voices.”
The Bronx man smashed into the busy area just before noon Thursday, killing a teenager. Police said he was going south on 7th Avenue then made an abrupt U-turn and jumped a curb. He drove down the sidewalk for three blocks.
One witness said the car barreled down the sidewalk like a bowling ball, striking several people in its path, reports CBS News correspondent Jericka Duncan. It was finally stopped by steel barriers.
Part of the rampage was captured on surveillance video. After mowing down 23 people, the red Honda Accord crashed into barricades meant to stop runaway vehicles.
“The girl who was walking next to me is on the ground, in a heap, and is clearly dead,” witness Ann Donahey said. “It was just speeding as fast as it could, hitting as many people.”
Alyssa Elsman, an 18-year-old girl visiting from Michigan, was killed. Her 13-year-old sister was also injured but survived.
Rojas tried to flee the scene. Bystanders helped police capture him.
“The traffic officer said, ‘Get him,'” witness Ken Bradix said. “He got away from three of them and I tackled him.”
So far, investigators don’t believe it was an act of terrorism.
“That being said, we are reinforcing key locations around the city with our anti-terror units of the NYPD,” Mayor Bill de Blasio said.
Rojas, a U.S. citizen, has had prior run-ins with police. Earlier this month, he was arrested for menacing.
“In 2008 he was arrested in Queens for drinking and driving, and also in 2015 he was arrested in Manhattan for drinking and driving,” said William Aubry, NYPD chief of Manhattan South detectives.
Rojas served in the U.S. Navy from September 2011 to May 2014. In 2013, he spent two months in a Navy prison after being court martialed.