Published: Sat, May 20, 2017
World | By Paul Elliott

Man charged with murder after auto mows down pedestrians in Times Square

Man charged with murder after auto mows down pedestrians in Times Square

Security camera footage showed the vehicle slam into pedestrians who moments earlier were ambling along, some carrying shopping bags and others pushing baby strollers.

A former US Navy veteran who appeared intoxicated has driven his vehicle the wrong way up a Times Square and ploughed into pedestrians on the footpath, killing a teenager and injuring 23 other people, authorities and witnesses said. It was stopped after crashing into a pole on 45th Street and Broadway, where it lied with two of its wheels in the air.

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.

Manhattan prosecutors said in court that Richard Rojas told police after his arrest that he wanted to "kill them all", and that officers should have shot him. The five counts of aggravated vehicular homicide is for the death of Elsman and four injured people who were in critical condition.

"He murdered in cold blood", Assistant District Attorney Harrison Schweiloch said.

He didn't enter a plea and was held without bail. It was unclear when Rojas, who was in custody, would get a lawyer or be arraigned. His family and friends who attended the hearing cried outside court and didn't speak to reporters. His next court appearance is May 24.

Alyssa Elsman died Thursday when a man drove his auto down the sidewalk for three blocks into the heart of New York City's theater district.

Photographers snapped pictures of a wild-eyed Rojas after he climbed from the wrecked auto and ran through the street waving his arms. A group that included a security supervisor at a nearby Planet Hollywood restaurant tackled him.

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. Her name was Alyssa Elsman and she had been visiting from MI with her family.

Her 13-year-old sister was injured in the incident.

"He had the angriest, craziest face and he was literally going after people", Rickerby said.

"She was just selfless". "She was the one person that brought my son joy".

"I felt so bad. standing there", not being able to do anything more to help, she said.

Rojas had previously been arrested twice for drunken driving, in 2008 and 2015, and once this month on a charge of menacing for threatening another man with a knife, police said. He pleaded guilty to harassment, a violation, and was not sentenced to any prison time.

According to Reuters, he said after being arrested: "You were supposed to shoot me!"

The 26-year-old has been charged with drink driving on two previous occasions.

Rojas enlisted in the Navy in 2011 and served for part of 2012 aboard the USS Carney, a destroyer.

Rojas, wearing the same red T-shirt and jeans he was photographed in the day earlier, appeared subdued Friday during a brief court appearance where prosecutors detailed murder and attempted murder charges.

An arrest report from the Jacksonville Sheriff's Office said Rojas yelled at an officer, "My life is over", and threatened to kill police after his release from jail.

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.

Rojas has several prior criminal cases that paint a picture of a troubled man.

Navy records show that in 2013 he spent two months at a naval brig in Charleston, South Carolina, but not indicate why.

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