Sunday 19 November 2017

Times Square crash: Driver was 'hearing voices' during car rampage that killed 18-year-old Alyssa

The scene in Times Square Inset: Alyssa Elsman who died in the attack
The scene in Times Square Inset: Alyssa Elsman who died in the attack
18-year-old Alyssa Elsman died in the crash
An injured pedestrian is tended by a passer-by
A man, who police said was the suspected driver of a car which crashed into a crowd on Times Square, is led out of the NYPD Midtown South precinct in New York
The carnage at Times Square in New York after a car drove three blocks along the pavement
The carnage at Times Square in New York after a car drove three blocks along the pavement

Lizzie Dearden

A man accused of deliberately running down pedestrians in Times Square has told police he was “hearing voices” during the rampage.

Witnesses said Richard Rojas (26) steered his car on to packed pavements near one of New York’s most iconic landmarks and drove at high speed for three blocks, killing an 18-year-old tourist and injuring 22 others.

He eventually crashed into steel barriers and emerged from his car running, shouting and jumping before being tackled by police and bystanders in chaotic scenes.

Officials said Rojas told police he was “hearing voices” and investigators believe he may have been under the influence of drugs, with an alcohol test coming back negative.

“You were supposed to shoot me! I wanted to kill them,” he shouted after being detained, a source told Reuters.

Rojas is due to appear in court today charged with second-degree murder, aggravated vehicular homicide and several counts of attempted murder.

Police identified the woman killed as 18-year-old Alyssa Elsman, who was on holiday with her family from Portage, Michigan.

Her 13-year-old sister was also struck by the car, but survived, police said.

The incident, at a crowded landmark long considered a terrorist target, initially raised fears of another Isis attack as the group calls on its supporters to carry out more vehicle rammings like those seen in Stockholm, London, Berlin and Nice.

But there was no claim of responsibility from Isis and the mayor of New York, Bill de Blasio said there was ”no indication that this was an act of terrorism”.

The Independent spoke with one man, identified by the first name Landry, who claimed he helped detain Mr Rojas.

“He came outside the car and ran toward 45th [street],” he said. “He was screaming…he got him to the floor like five minutes before the police came.”

Ken Bradix, a security guard from the nearby Planet Hollywood restaurant who also helped tackle the driver, said: “He began screaming, no particular words but just utter screaming. He was swinging his arms at the same time.”

Rojas’ motivation was unclear but a troubled history has emerged that saw him discharged from the US Navy over disciplinary problems in 2014, following three years of service as an electrician's mate fireman apprentice.

He has been arrested on charges of driving while intoxicated twice, losing his licence for 90 days in 2015, and was arrested for pointing a knife at a notary he accused of stealing his identity last week.

In previous arrests, Rojas told authorities he believed he was being harassed and followed, officials said.

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