Times Square Crash: Richard Rojas, 26, Identified As Driver In Fatal Crash

Remigio Civitarese
Mag 20, 2017

A man steered his auto onto a sidewalk running through the heart of Times Square and mowed down pedestrians for three blocks, killing a teenager, then emerged from his wrecked vehicle wild-eyed and waving his arms before he was subdued by police and bystanders.

Police who arrested the driver identified him as Richard Rojas, 26, from the New York City borough of the Bronx. Eighteen-year-old Alyssa Elsman, of Portage, Michigan, was killed in the crash. A woman, 18, was reportedly pronounced dead at the scene and her sister was also injured, according to the news outlet. Rojas was charged with misdemeanor battery and resisting an officer without violence, but it was unclear how the case was resolved.

He served in the Navy from July 2011 to March 2014 and spent two months in the brig in Charleston, South Carolina after being court martialed, CBS News reports.

The New York Police Department has a station right in Times Square, at 43rd Street and Seventh Avenue, so the response to the incident was nearly instantaneous.

It was a scene that New Yorkers and unsuspecting tourists have become used to in a post-9/11 world, with the initial fearful reaction that it was terrorism and then the subsequent exasperation that one of the busiest intersections in the world was shut down.

Rojas was arrested Thursday afternoon after he drove his auto for three blocks in Times Square, hitting almost two dozen people before steel security barriers finally stopped him.

The picture that quickly emerged of Rojas from neighbors and authorities was of a man with problems.

Only a week ago, Rojas was arrested at his apartment in the Bronx for threatening another man with a knife.

Officials said Rojas was arrested in 2008 and 2015 for driving under the influence, and in 2016 for menacing in different areas of NY. He says Rojas was posting "crazy stuff" online that has since been taken down, according to The Associated Press.

A source for the New York Police Department, who spoke on condition of anonymity, told Reuters Rojas was believed to have been under the influence of some intoxicating substance at the time of Thursday's incident, but preliminary test results for alcohol came back negative. Rojas' lawyer, Enrico Demarco, had no comment.

He was expected to appear in court on Friday at an arraignment hearing.

They say they worked with the City of NY and NYPD to determine exactly what they would look like. He turned around and saw the vehicle hitting people on the sidewalk. He was taken from Midtown to the Seventh Precinct to undergo drug and alcohol testing.

A friend of the victim, Olivia Lemke, said the Elsman family went on a family trip once a year to NY.

Rojas reportedly told police during his previous arrests that he felt he was being harassed and followed. The arresting officer said Rojas screamed, "My life is over!" as he was being detained.

While some bystanders rushed to help the injured, others stood in silence, dazed for a moment before people started crying or shouting for help.

The vehicle collided with a metal pole and came to a stop at 45 Street and Broadway, police said.

Six months ago the city completed a $55 million, almost six-year renovation of Times Square that turned roadways into pedestrian zones. "People were beside them, . we were trying to tell (police) they were hurt".

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