Driver in Times Square rampage charged with murder

A man accused of mowing down a crowd of Times Square pedestrians with his auto, killing one of them, has made his first appearance in court.

On Thursday evening, Rojas was charged with murder, attempted murder and aggravated vehicular homicide, indicating that the authorities seem to think that - no matter how intoxicated Rojas was - it was an intentional act.

Police said he claimed to be hearing voices, wanted to die, and said he "did it for God".

Nelson Sr. was among the 21 people hurt when Richard Rojas, 26, pulled a U-turn at West 42nd Street, jumped a curb and plowed up a sidewalk full of pedestrian for several blocks, police said.

Alyssa Elsman, an 18-year-old tourist from Portage, Michigan, was killed and 22 people were injured when the red Honda Sedan mounted the pavement and struck pedestrians at the world famous tourist destination.

Rojas, who had served in the U.S. Navy, has prior convictions for drunk driving.

Even though investigators quickly determined that the crash was not related to terrorism, Mayor Bill de Blasio says the NYPD is stepping up security just to be safe. "He was swinging his arms at the same time", said Ken Bradix, a security supervisor at a nearby Planet Hollywood restaurant who tackled him.

Rojas enlisted in the Navy in 2011 and was an electrician's mate fireman apprentice.

Her younger sister Ava was taken to a hospital for treatment, her condition is not yet known. The fire department said earlier that 22 people were injured, but police on Friday said the number was 20.

Aubry said results of drug tests on Rojas were expected in the next few days. Rojas was charged at the time with misdemeanor battery and resisting an officer without violence, but it was unclear how the case was resolved.

A wrecked vehicle sits in the intersection of 45th and Broadway in Times Square, on Thu., May 18, 2017 in New York City.

Alyssa Elsman, 18, from Portage, Michigan, was on her first day of a dream vacation touring New York City with her family when she lost her life.

A neighborhood friend of Rojas, Harrison Ramos, said that the suspect was noticeably different after coming back from home.

Navy records show he spent two months in a military prison in Charleston, South Carolina, in the summer of 2013, but did not say why. In 2012, he was accused of beating a cab driver in Jacksonville, Florida, at a naval station.

TOPSHOT - A police officer tries to take pictures of the scene as other police officers secure the area near a auto after it plunged into pedestrians in Times Square in NY on May 18, 2017.

  • Larry Hoffman