Richard Rojas, who plowed his Honda Accord through three and a half blocks of pedestrians in New York’s bustling Times Square Thursday, once threatened to kill police officers.
Rojas, a 26-year-old from the Bronx, threatened to kill “all police and military police he might see see after he is released from jail,” according to a police report following a 2012 arrest while serving in the Navy, The New York Times reports. Rojas was arrested in the fall of 2012 for attacking a cab driver at a Naval Station in Jacksonville, Florida.
Friends said that Rojas changed after his three years in the Navy. He began to express frustration with a government that “held him back and blocked his progress.” It is unclear as to why he exited the Navy, but a friend said that he had been dishonorably discharged, according to the TheNYT.
Multiple drunk driving arrests and incidents of violence paint a picture of an erratic, troubled man with a vendetta. Just one week ago, on May 11, Rojas was charged with menacing and criminal possession of a weapon after threatening a notary with a knife and grabbing his neck. “You’re trying to steal my identity,” Rojas reportedly shouted at the man.
The reportedly suicidal Rojas was heading southbound on Seventh Avenue in Midtown Manhattan at 11:55 a.m. Thursday, when he suddenly whipped a U-turn at West 42nd Street. Rojas careened up the sidewalk, straight into unsuspecting foot traffic, northbound for three and a half blocks before a steel barrier brought his murderous rampage to a screeching halt at Seventh and Broadway.
Immediately after crashing his vehicle, witnesses said that Rojas got out of his car and ran towards a group of people, flailing his arms, before being tackled by law enforcement, with the help of a Planet Hollywood door supervisor.
One person was killed, and 22 were injured as a result of Rojas’s deadly rampage through the heart of the Big Apple. 18 year old Alyssa Elsman, a tourist visiting from Michigan, died as she stood on the sidewalk with her 13 year old sister, who was injured.
“He was driving like a madman and screaming,” Michael Rickerby, and tourist from Tennessee, told the New York Post. “He was going faster and faster on the sidewalk when he was hitting people. It looked like he was trying to hit people,” Rickerby said.
Rojas was charged with murder, attempted murder and aggravated vehicular homicide. Twenty-two people were injured, including four with serious injuries.
New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio quelled terrorism fears during a press conference following the incident. “Based on the information we have at this moment, there is no indication that this was an act of terror,” he said.
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