What to Know
- The suspect who slammed his car into a crowd of pedestrians in the heart of Times Square is facing a slew of charges, authorities say
- Officials don't believe there's a nexus to terror; sources say the suspect has a history of possible psychiatric, drug and alcohol problems
- One woman died and 22 other people were injured after being hit by the vehicle; the driver was taken into custody
The driver who mowed down nearly two dozen people in Times Square Thursday, killing one of them and critically injuring others, allegedly said he wanted to "kill them all" and that officers should have shot him to stop him, prosecutors said Friday.
Richard Rojas, 26 Bronx, appeared subdued during a brief court appearance as prosecutors outlined the litany of charges against him, including murder and multiple counts of attempted murder and aggravated vehicular homicide.
The Bronx man did not enter a plea. His attorney, Enrico Demarco, did not comment. Rojas was remanded and is due back in court next week.
The court hearing came as police officials briefed reporters on their investigation, saying Rojas patiently let people and cars pass before starting his rampage.
Sources familiar with the probe have told NBC 4 New York Rojas told investigators he heard demons telling him to hurt people before he turned the wrong way on Seventh Avenue at 42nd Street Thursday and barreled into the lunch-hour crowd. Alyssa Elsman, an 18-year-old tourist from Michigan, was killed in the mayhem. Her 13-year-old sister, who had been walking alongside her at the time, was among the 22 people injured. Authorities said Friday the younger sister suffered a collapsed lung and broken pelvis.
"He waited for those cars to pass and he accelerated, waiting for those pedestrians to pass ... that goes to his state of mind," Chief William Aubry said.
Law enforcement sources say Elsman's father was so angry he went into the midtown precinct where Rojas was being held and told officers he wanted to kill him. NYPD officials did not publicly walk the suspect as a precaution.
A cause of the crash is under investigation, but law enforcement sources have said Rojas appeared under the influence when he was taken into custody. He blew a 0.0 at the precinct Thursday afternoon, but law enforcement sources say certain statements and tests suggests he may have smoked something.
He told police that he had smoked marijuana laced with PCP, according to a criminal complaint. Aubry said police were expediting search warrants and were hoping to get blood tests back in the next few days.
Rojas has a history of DWI arrests, including one where he was driving faster than 99 mph in a 50 mph zone. A former member of the Navy, where he served aboard the USS Carney, Rojas was dishonorably discharged for resisting arrest in Florida in 2014. Charges were dropped in the case.
Harrison Ramos, a friend, told reporters that Rojas hadn't been the same since he returned from active duty in the Navy. He says Rojas was posting "crazy stuff" online that has since been taken down, according to The Associated Press. Other friends say he was having money troubles.
Rojas was most recently arrested on a menacing charge last week for allegedly pulling a knife on an acquaintance in the Bronx.