Accused Times Square driver ordered held without bail
The Bronx man who mowed down dozens of pedestrians in Times Square on Thursday, killing a young tourist, told police I wanted to kill them and said he was high on marijuana laced with PCP when he was arrested, according to court documents. Richard Rojas had glassy eyes, slurred speech and was unsteady when detectives interviewed him, during which he told officers, according to a criminal complaint: I smoked marijuana. I laced the marijuana with PCP.
The complaint also said Rojas ran at a police officer after crashing his vehicle into pedestrians at Seventh Avenue and West 45th Street, and told the officer: I wanted to kill them. During a brief court appearance in Manhattan criminal court on Friday, Judge Tamiko Amaker ordered Rojas remanded.
Manhattan Assistant District Attorney Harrison Schweiloch, who asked for Rojas to be remanded, said in court that Rojas went on a murderous rampage against our city. He drove from the Bronx to Times Square without incident, the prosecutor said, but he drove to Seventh Avenue and waited for traffic to move, made a U-turn, hopped the sidewalk . . . he murdered in cold blood an 18-year-old woman. Rojas only stopped . . . after his car crashed into a metal post, the prosecutor said.
Rojas did not enter a plea Friday to charges of second-degree murder, 20 counts of second-degree attempted murder and five counts of aggravated vehicular homicide. He did not speak during the brief court hearing, during which he stood handcuffed. Rojas defense attorney, Enrico DeMarco, declined to comment after the hearing. Rojas family members attended the hearing but did not comment. The prosecutor added that Rojas had been arrested another time in the past month. He pleaded down a harassment charge in the Bronx to menacing, the prosecutor said. He also has two DWI convictions, from 2015 and 2008.
Meanwhile, at a Friday afternoon news conference in Times Square, Chief of Manhattan South Detectives William Aubry said 20 pedestrians were injured in Thursday s rampage, which also killed 18-year-old Alyssa Elsman of Michigan. Of those who survived, 19 were hospitalized, and seven were admitted to hospitals, Aubry said. Three remain in critical condition and one, a 38-year-old woman from Canada, is in very critical condition, he said. Elsman s 13-year-old sister, who was among those injured, is being treated at NewYork-Presbyterian Hospital/Weill Cornell Medical Center for a collapsed lung and a broken pelvis, Aubry said.
He gave a timeline of the events leading up to the rampage Thursday, saying Rojas left his Bronx home at 10:30 a.m., heading to Manhattan. A half-hour later, Aubry said Rojas was recorded entering Manhattan, and at 11:50 a.m. he was spotted at West 48th Street and Seventh Avenue. Rojas waited on Seventh Avenue at 42nd Street for traffic to pass, then made a right turn onto the sidewalk, striking Elsman between 42nd and 43rd streets, and continuing on to hit others, Aubry said. Parts of his car flew off as he struck people and objects, and at one point he drove under scaffolding on the sidewalk, he said.
After his vehicle stopped on a metal bollard, Rojas got out, only to be tackled by a traffic agent, on- and off-duty police officers, and a security guard, Aubry said. Investigators now are waiting for the results of blood tests to determine what substances Rojas was on, he said. I can t comment on the exact chemical substance, Aubry said. We hope bloodwork comes back in the next few days to confirm what we believe. Investigators also are continuing to search the vehicle which so far has yielded nothing out of the ordinary and planned Friday to search his Bronx home, which he shares with his mother, Aubry said.
Officials said there appeared to be no terrorism link, but were still investigating the motives of the driver. Aubry said investigators were poring through Rojas background, including any history of psychological illness.
But, Aubry said, the fact that Rojas drove without incident from the Bronx to Times Square and patiently waited at 42nd Street before turning onto the sidewalk to plow through pedestrian traffic goes to his state of mind.
He waited for those cars to pass and he accelerated, striking down those pedestrians, Aubry said.