The Navy veteran suspected of driving his car into pedestrians in New York reportedly told police he had been hearing voices at the time.
Richard Rojas, 26, is accused of steering his car onto the pavement in the heart of Times Square, driving for three blocks and hitting 23 pedestrians along the way. One of them – a teenager – died.
He then walked from the vehicle waving his arms before being tackled by members of the public, including a ticket seller and a security guard at a Planet Hollywood restaurant.
Initially, there were fears the incident had been a terrorist attack but investigators discounted that and are focusing on Rojas’s sobriety and mental health.
Rojas, who lived in the Bronx, said he was hearing voices and had expected to die, according to law enforcement officials quoted by the Associated Press.
He tested negative for alcohol but it is understood that he is also undergoing tests while in police custody to see if he had taken drugs.
People who lived near Rojas described him as a friendly man who had been having problems.
Last week, he was arrested and charged after allegedly threatening a notary with a knife. He had accused the notary of stealing his identity.
In 2008 and 2015, he was arrested for drink-driving. After pleading guilty in 2015, he lost his driving license for 90 days.
During this time, he had told police he was being harassed and followed.
Rojas enlisted in the US Navy in 2011 and served on the destroyer USS Carney in 2012.
His most recent base was at Jacksonville in Florida but he was discharged three years ago after being court-martialled for reasons that have not been disclosed.
- ^ steering his car onto the pavement in the heart of Times Square (news.sky.com)
- ^ NYC crash witness – It was a gruesome scene (news.sky.com)
MEXICO CITY – Tightening of the U.S.-Mexican border is sending political and economic shock waves deep into Mexico. Some there say it may force the government to improve conditions at home so there’s less motivation to head north. Patriotism was on display as military drummers signaled a changing of the guard at the office of the Mexican president recently. To no one’s surprise, at least in Mexico City, Donald Trump’s election has triggered a rise in Mexican nationalism. The ardent Mexican leftist and twice-defeated presidential candidate Andr s Manuel L pez Obrador is surging in the polls. He’s riding revulsion in Mexico about Trump s stance on immigration and his push for an expanded border wall.
Trump has given Mexico s left a political gift, said Juan Carlos Romero Hicks, a member of the Mexican Senate’s Foreign Relations Committee.
“I never dreamed in my lifetime of a U.S. president that would be afraid of Mexico, afraid of competition!” Romero Hicks said. The foreign relations committee continues to promote an integrated North American economy. But Romero-Hicks said that’s a challenge right now.
“In the U.S. there’s notion that is not correct that we are a security threat. Building a wall is absurd.”
Federico Estevez is a political scientist at Mexican university ITAM. He said the idea of an expanded wall whether with bricks and mortar or cameras and drones is prompting many in Mexico to demand their country finally reduce its economic dependence on the U.S.
“For too long Mexicans have coddled the illusion that if things were bad enough they could always go north for a new opportunity, Estevez said. If you put up the wall, well there’s no better symbol that tells you, ‘Nope, you’re stuck.'”
Estevez added that Mexicans are focused like never before on their government’s historical inability to create jobs. That s a view shared by Esteban Illades, managing editor at current affairs magazine Nexos.
“Mexican politicians care less and less about job creation here in Mexico because they do know they can export Mexicans to the U.S. But that has changed,” Illades said. After peaking in 2000, the Pew Research Center said in 2015 that net migration to the U.S. from Mexico was zero. That remains the case today. As many Mexicans enter the U.S. as leave each year. But since Trump started talking about the border, some unauthorized immigrants from Mexico have returned home.
President [Enrique] Pe a Nieto said a few weeks ago that Mexicans were coming because they knew that Mexico was the land of opportunity, Illades said.
Mexican President Enrique Pe a Nieto. (PHOTO: Chatham House via Wikimedia Commons)
But he is not buying what President Pe a Nieto is selling.
There’s no job creation, violence is at the levels we haven’t seen since 2011, Illades said. They re not coming back because they want to. They re are coming back because they’re scared or because they’re being deported by Donald Trump.”
And figures like leftist presidential candidate L pez Obrador are leveraging that fear. He recently told U.S. audiences that the wall won’t stop “the flow of workers,” only “make it more dangerous.” He also calls an expanded wall a “criminal act.”
“Donald Trump has permeated the Mexican political discourse,” said Victor Hugo Michel, chief editor of El Financiero television, a channel devoted to the economy.
“You see that Andr s Manuel L pez Obrador, he has positioned himself as the only candidate that would know how to react to Donald Trump, Michel said, and this is having a success because most Mexican voters want to see retaliation.”
Though a leftist, L pez Obrador and Trump are fellow travelers in a sense. Both rail against their neighbor and both want change on the border. Trump wants it effectively sealed. L pez Obrador wants the U.S. to reform immigration so that Mexicans can cross legally. The only questions now are, Whose vision of the border will become reality? And, Might uncertainty on the border force the Mexican government to start substantive job creation at home?
South Carolina’s Orangeburg Consolidated District Five fired a private security firm that staffed its schools after one of its guards used pepper spray on a student following a minor cell phone violation. The incident touches on larger discussions about the role of school security personnel in routine disciplinary issues and whether it’s appropriate to carry pepper spray in school settings. The guard, with DTH Protective Services, apparently witnessed a school administrator asking a North Middle/High School student to turn off music playing on a cellphone. The student complied, but the music started playing again, and the guard responded by spraying him, the Associated Press reports.
The guard followed the student into another classroom and sprayed him again, hitting six other students in the process. A spokesman for the district said in a statement that Orangeburg wants its school security to “assist with de-escalating situations, not cause a disruption.”
Use of Pepper Spray on Students
The question of whether school guards and police should carry pepper spray has been an issue in schools around the country. Often, those conversations arise in reaction to the use of pepper spray as a response to minor or non-violent student behavior.
In 2015, a federal judge ruled that Birmingham, Ala., police officers used unconstitutional excessive force when they sprayed students who were not resisting arrest or posing a threat to others with a mix of pepper spray and tear gas at school. In one of those cases, an officer sprayed a pregnant student who was already restrained with handcuffs. In the other, officers had a 135-pound boy pinned against a wall of lockers. In 2014, Boston school officials decided to deny a request by unarmed school officers to carry pepper spray.
“I think what we are hearing so far has persuaded me that pepper spray, no matter how well-developed the policy, and no matter how well-crafted the training, and no matter their good intention might serve to drive a wedge between our students and the school police who do a great job protecting them every day,” then Superintendent John McDonough wrote in a statement reported in the Boston Herald.
In civil rights guidance issues by the U.S. Departments of Education and Justice in 2014, the agencies said districts must ensure that school-based police officers and security guards don’t violate students’ civil rights or use excessive force whether they are employed directly by the district or contracted through local police or a private security agency.
Further reading about school security, school police, and pepper spray: