New York – Police have charged a man with murder, attempted murder and aggravated vehicular homicide, local media reported, after he allegedly ploughed his car into pedestrians in Times Square on Thursday, killing one woman and injuring 22 people.
Richard Rojas, 26, from the Bronx area of New York, tested positive for the drug PCP and told police that God made him do it, the broadcaster CNN reported early Friday, citing a law enforcement source.
Rojas also suffered from “psychological issues” and told police he had expected them to shoot him, CNN said.
Rojas was arrested at the scene and taken to a facility to be tested for drugs and alcohol after first trying to flee.
New York Times Square car crash – Passers-by rush to the aid of a man lying on the ground after a car accident in New York Times Square Photo: Erik Pendzich/Rex Shutterstock via ZUMA Press/dpa
He had driven his car along the pavement in New York’s Times Square just before midday (1600 GMT) Thursday and travelled for three-and-a-half blocks before crashing into some bollards.
An 18-year-old woman was killed and her 13-year-old sister was among the injured.
New York Mayor Bill de Blasio said there was no indication of the incident having been a terrorist act.
A witness who was walking along 42nd Street told dpa she had to physically leap out of the way to avoid being hit by the driver as the car came down 7th Avenue.
“When we saw [the car], five, six people was already on the bonnet, so I couldn’t really see the driver, but the people waiting for the signal [to cross the street] were already hit and one by one were on the sidewalk,” Kaoru Emura, a researcher who works in the area, said.
“I was wondering why the car wasn’t slowing down. I didn’t hear any brakes or any screeching sound.”
Emura said she saw people with neck injuries and cuts and people screaming and running towards the injured.
Rojas, a Navy veteran, was arrested for drink-driving in 2008 and 2015, New York officials said, and also was detained earlier this month for pulling a kitchen knife on a visitor to his flat.
He was arrested for attacking a taxi driver while stationed at a base in Jacksonville, Florida, between 2011 and 2014.
The White House said President Donald Trump was briefed on the incident.
Manhattan’s Times Square, at the cross-section of Broadway and 7th Avenue, is one of New York’s biggest tourist attractions. Around 300,000 people pass through the square every day, according to figures from the Times Square Alliance.
Of the 22 victims hospitalized after the incident, four were in critical condition, while three were in serious condition.
The remaining 15 had less serious injuries.