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Times Square driver who hit pedestrians charged with murder

By AMY HE in New York | chinadaiy.com.cn | Updated: 2017-05-20 05:46

The 26-year-old man who plowed through pedestrians on sidewalks in Times Square with a car, killing one person and injuring 22 others, was charged with murder on Friday.

Richard Rojas was charged with one count of second-degree murder, 20 counts of attempted murder, and five counts of aggravated vehicular homicide. He was arraigned at a Manhattan court and is due back in court next week. He did not enter a plea.

Rojas said he wanted to "kill them all" and police should have shot him to stop him, a prosecutor revealed Friday.

"I wanted to kill them,” according to a criminal complaint, and admitted to smoking PCP-laced marijuana before the rampage on mid-day Thursday. Rojas, a Bronx resident who had served in the Navy, told police that God made him do it, a law enforcement source told CNN.

"It appears to be intentional in the sense that he was troubled and lashing out," New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio said in a radio station interview on Friday. "At the root of this is an untreated mental health issue going back probably decades."

Rojas made a U-turn on 42nd Street and drove his car north on sidewalks, hitting people for three blocks before finally coming to a stop because of steel security barriers that were in place on the sidewalk.

He emerged from his car, screaming and jumping up and down before he was subdued by bystanders and nearby police, witnesses said.

The killed pedestrian was Alyssa Elsman, of Portage, Michigan, a tourist who was with her 13-year-old sister, Ava, who was also among the injured.

William Aubry, the New York Police Department chief of Manhattan South Detectives, said that three victims were in critical condition Friday. A 38-year-old Canadian resident was in "very critical" condition, according to Aubry.

Rojas has a history of arrests for drunk driving and aggressive behavior, including two arrests for driving while impaired and assaulting a cab driver. Last week, he was arrested for criminal possession of a weapon when he threatened a visitor to his home.

He had enlisted in the Navy in 2011, serving abroad the USS Carney in 2012, before reportedly being dishonorably discharged in 2014. Records show that he spent two months at a naval prison in South Carolina, though the reason is undisclosed.

A friend of Rojas said that joining the Navy had changed him and that he became paranoid after coming home, according to The New York Times.

amyhe@chinadailyusa.com

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