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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.

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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.

Police: Gunman shot, killed white men on street at random in California

Police: Gunman Shot, Killed White Men On Street At Random In California

Fresno police members walk near a shooting scene Tuesday, April 18, 2017, in Fresno, Calif. (John Walker/Fresno Bee/via AP) (Credit: AP)

FRESNO, Calif. – Three men were having a seemingly ordinary day in downtown Fresno, California, before they were singled out at random and killed by a black gunman targeting white victims, police said. The men happened to be on the same block, but had no known connection to each other or to the shooter, Kori Ali Muhammad, who told police he wanted to kill as many white people as he could before he was captured. One victim, a 34-year-old father of two preschoolers, was on the job when he was shot Tuesday in the passenger seat of a Pacific Gas & Electric utility truck. The driver wasn’t hit and sped toward the police department, but his partner couldn’t be saved.

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Another victim, a 37-year-old man, had just picked up a bag of groceries Tuesday at a Catholic Charities building when he was gunned down. Stephen Hughes, 66, said he and his wife rushed home Tuesday after receiving a frantic call from a neighbor to find a body draped in a blanket on the sidewalk leading to his front door.

“It looks like a guy carrying his groceries home from the store,” Hughes said. The third victim, a 59-year-old man, was gunned down in the parking of the Catholic Charities building.

“These were unprovoked attacks,” Fresno police Chief Jerry Dyer said.

Two Latina women and a child crossed paths with Muhammad but were luckier. Muhammad pointed the gun at them as they sat in their car trying to flee, but didn’t shoot. Muhammad, 39, is in custody and is expected to be charged with four counts of murder — for Tuesday’s three victims and 25-year-old Motel 6 security guard, Carl Williams, another white man who Muhammad shot last week. He also faces at least two additional charges of assault with a deadly weapon. Police had been looking for Muhammad in the Williams killing, and Muhammad said seeing his own name and picture in a press release Tuesday morning helped spur the rampage.

Muhammad had shorn off the braids featured in his wanted pictures and YouTube videos, fired 16 rounds in less than two minutes at four places within a block.

“I did it. I shot them,” Muhammad told officers as they arrested him, according to the chief. During the arrest, Muhammad shouted “Allahu Akbar,” but Dyer said the shootings had “nothing to do with terrorism in spite of the statement he made.”

“This is solely based on race,” Dyer said. Police are searching for the revolver Muhammad said he tossed into a pile of clothing. The gun may have been picked up by someone else, Dyer said.

On what appeared to be Muhammad’s Facebook page, he repeatedly posted “#LetBlackPeopleGo” and encouraged “black warriors” to “mount up.” A flurry of posts emerged in the past day. He wrote that his “kill rate increases tremendously on the other side” and also posted about “white devils,” themes he dwelled on in hip-hop videos that he posted on YouTube. Muhammad has a criminal history that includes arrests on weapons, drugs and false imprisonment charges and making terrorist threats. He had been associated with gangs but he was not a confirmed member, police say.

Muhammad was charged in 2005 with possessing cocaine with intent to distribute, court records show. Federal prosecutors said at the time that he was also in possession of a 9mm semi-automatic handgun and two rifles after being convicted of a felony. He claimed insanity, and his attorney requested a psychiatric examination for his client, saying Muhammad “appeared eccentric with some bizarre beliefs.”

He also “suffered auditory hallucinations and had at least two prior mental health hospitalizations,” according to court documents. His attorney said that Muhammad had “paranoia” and thought the justice system and his defense attorney were conspiring against him, court papers said. The attorney who represented Muhammad in that case did not return a call for comment Tuesday.

Public records list Muhammad as Cory Taylor and other aliases with addresses in Fresno and Sacramento. Fresno’s police chief said his former name was Cory McDonald. A woman who identified herself as Taylor’s grandmother said Tuesday that the family last saw him on Easter Sunday. She hung up the phone before giving her name.

“I never would have thought he would do anything like this,” sad Muhammad’s brother, who asked not to be identified by name. “I’m just kind of shocked.”

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Contributing to this report are Associated Press writers Sophia Bollag in Fresno; Kristin J. Bender, Olga R. Rodriguez and Janie Har in San Francisco; Jonathan J. Cooper and Don Thompson in Sacramento; Mike Balsamo in Los Angeles; and researcher Jennifer Farrar in New York City.

References

  1. ^ moreCrime (newjersey.news12.com)

Timeline: The Murder at Short Hills

Timeline: The Murder At Short Hills

Dustin Friedland was shot and killed during an alleged carjacking at the Mall at Short Hills on Dec. 15. 2013.

March 16, 2017 3:52 PM

On Dec. 15, 2013 Dustin and Jamie Friedland were carjacked while in the parking structure of The Mall at Short Hills. During the commission of the crime, Dustin was shot and killed. Four men, Hanif Thompson, Harif Ford, Basim Henry and Kevin Roberts were charged in connection with the murder. The trial for Basim Henry began on March 15, 2017. He was the first suspect to be tried. All four will be tried separately. Henry is being described at the alleged getaway driver.

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Dec. 12, 2013

Suspects SUV with wood siding spotted at the mall on surveillance video. They were allegedly targeting a Range Rover, the same make of vehicle that the Friedlands were driving on the night of the murder

Dec. 15, 2013

Dustin and Jamie Friedland were celebrating their first wedding anniversary by having dinner and shopping at The Mall at Short Hills. Jamie Friedland testified that the couple had just gotten back to their Range Rover parked in the parking structure after spending the day at the mall.

Dec. 15, 2013 – 9 p.m.

Dustin Friedland is confronted by two men while his wife sits inside the Range Rover. Jamie Friedland testifies that Dustin and the two men argued, and a struggle took place. She testified that one of the men pointed a gun to Dustin s head and then she heard a gunshot.

Jamie says one of the men ordered her out of the car, the other man got into the passenger seat and the two suspect drove away. The other two suspects are alleged to have followed behind in another car as backup.

Dec. 15, 2013 – Immediately after the shooting

Jamie Friedland tries to call 911 but cannot get her new iPhone to work. A security guard is able to radio in for emergency services. It takes an ambulance 18 minutes to arrive at the mall and another 10 plus minutes to reach Dustin. Emergency crews had difficulty reaching the scene due to limitations of the parking structure. Crews had to walk on foot to the scene.

Dustin is taken to Morristown Medical Center but dies just before midnight.

Dec. 16, 2013

The Friedland s Range Rover is found behind a vacant home on Renner Avenue in Newark about 8 miles away from the mall. A massive manhunt is underway for the people responsible.

Dec. 21, 2013

Hanif Thompson, Harif Ford, Basim Henry and Kevin Roberts are arrested and charged in connection with the shooting. Ford and Roberts are arrested in Newark. Thompson is arrested in Irvington and Henry is arrested at a hotel in Pennsylvania. Authorities credit old-fashioned police work and tips from the public in helping to identify the suspects.

The Essex County Prosecutor s Office says that the Friedlands were targeted specifically for their Range Rover. The suspects are charged with murder, felony murder, carjacking, conspiracy, possession of a weapon and possession of a weapon for an unlawful purpose. All four have their bail set at $2 million.

Jan. 8, 2014

The four suspects face their first arraignment on their charges. All plead not guilty to the crimes.

March 14, 2014

Jamie Friedland files a wrongful death lawsuit against the owners of The Mall at Short Hill, alleging that the mall did not provide adequate security,

May 15, 2014

New Jersey lawmakers introduce a bill to make parking garages more accessible to emergency medical personnel. It is in response to Dustin Friedland s murder and the delay in medical assistance.

Sept. 22, 2014

The four men accused in Dustin Friedland s murder are indicted on the charges.

Oct. 22, 2014

The four suspects are arraigned a second time after they were formally indicted for Dustin Friedland s murder. All four again plead not guilty.

Nov. 13, 2014

Surveillance video of the suspect s alleged getaway vehicle at the mall three days prior to the murder released to the public.

July 10, 2015

Owners of The Mall at Short Hills ordered to release security documents regarding security expenses and prior criminal activity at the mall.

Oct. 23, 2015

Judge says Jamie Friedland can seek damages against the mall s owners in her wrongful death lawsuit.

Aug. 16, 2016

Superior court judge rules that the mall s insurance carrier must cover the costs of defending the property against Jamie Friedland s lawsuit. They must also pay any awards if the mall is found to be at fault in the case.

Feb. 27, 2017

Jury selection begins for the trial of the first suspect to be tried for the murder, Basim Henry

March 15, 2017

The trial of Basim Henry begins. Jamie Friedland testifies for the prosecution after opening arguments.

References

  1. ^ See alsoFull coverage (newjersey.news12.com)
  2. ^ moreCrime (newjersey.news12.com)