Per ABC News, The man accused of steering his car onto a Times Square sidewalk Thursday and mowing down pedestrians told police he was “hearing voices,” law enforcement, officials said.
Richard Rojas, a 26-year-old Bronx man who had been discharged from the U.S. Navy following disciplinary problems, told police he was hearing voices and expected to die, two law enforcement officials said.
Rojas, who was in custody, was expected to be arraigned Friday.
Police said around noon Rojas drove a Honda at a high rate of speed from West 42nd Street to West 45th Street. His vehicle was stopped by a metal stanchion at West 45th Street. The car appeared to catch fire, as smoke was seen coming up from it.
Police said 23 people were struck, including an 18-year-old tourist from Michigan who died.
On Friday morning, concrete barriers had been placed along the west side of Seventh Avenue between 45th and 42rd streets where the car traveled. The area had reopened to traffic.
After the wreck Thursday, Rojas emerged from his vehicle running, yelling and jumping before being subdued by police and bystanders in a chaotic scene. “He began screaming, no particular words but just utter screaming. He was swinging his arms at the same time, said Ken Bradix, a security supervisor at a nearby Planet Hollywood restaurant who tackled Rojas.
Rojas initially tested negative for alcohol, but more detailed drug tests were pending and sources said he had been using K2, a synthetic marijuana. The officials said Rojas told officers he had been hearing voices.
Rojas’ motivation was unclear, but Mayor Bill de Blasio said there was “no indication that this was an act of terrorism.”
The apartment building where Rojas lives in the Bronx was cordoned off by police Thursday. The picture that quickly emerged of Rojas from neighbors and authorities was of a man with problems.
A week ago he was arrested and charged with pointing a knife at a notary, whom he accused of stealing his identity. He pleaded guilty to a harassment violation. In previous arrests, he told authorities he believed he was being harassed and followed, one of the law enforcement officials said.
Rojas was arrested on charges of driving while intoxicated in 2008 and 2015, NYPD Commissioner James O’Neill said, losing his license for 90 days.
A neighborhood friend in the Bronx, Harrison Ramos, said Rojas wasn’t the same when he came back from the Navy in 2014. “He’s been going through a real tough time,” he said.
Rojas enlisted in 2011 and was an electrician’s mate fireman apprentice. In 2012, he served aboard the U.S.S. Carney, a destroyer.
Navy records show that in 2013 he spent two months at a naval brig in Charleston, South Carolina. They don’t indicate why.
Rojas spent his final months in the Navy at the Naval Air Station in Jacksonville, Fla., before being discharged in 2014 as the result of a special court martial, a Navy official said. Details were not immediately available.
Thursday’s mayhem began at noon on a hot, clear day that brought large crowds of people into the streets to enjoy the good weather.
An 18-year-old tourist from Michigan died at the scene, officials said. She’s been identified as Alyssa Elsman. Her 13-year-old sister was with her at the time, and was injured in the incident.
Twenty-two were injured. Four of them were in critical condition, three were in serious condition — and all are expected to survive.