Sunday, 28 May, 2017

Suspect in deadly Times Square mayhem charged with murder

Lora Hunt | 19 May, 2017, 20:40

An 18-year-old woman was killed and at least 22 people injured Thursday when a speeding auto plowed into pedestrians in Manhattan's bustling Times Square, city officials said.

An 18-year-old woman died after the vehicle mounted the pavement before hitting security bollards at the tourist magnet.

The incident evoked recent terrorist attacks by vehicles in London, Nice and Berlin but New York Mayor Bill de Blasio said there was "no indication" it was an act of terrorism.

Following his arrest shortly after the crash at around noon, Rojas was transported to a testing facility to determine whether he had drugs or alcohol in his system.

Police said the rampage unfolded rapidly as Rojas allegedly drove his vehicle at high speed for three blocks down Seventh Avenue, in the heart of Times Square, made a U-turn at 42nd Street and vaulted the curb, hitting the first victim.

Rojas was charged with one count of murder in the second-degree, aggravated vehicular homicide and multiple counts of attempted murder, a NY police spokesman said late on Thursday.

The dead woman was named as 18-year-old Alyssa Elsman from Portage Michigan.

A week ago he was arrested and charged with pointing a knife at a notary, whom he accused of stealing his identity. In 2013, Rojas while in the Navy, pleaded guilty to drunken driving, failure to pay a just debt, drunk and disorderly conduct and communicating a threat. After his arrest, he told police he was "hearing voices" and expected to die, two law enforcement officials said.

Rojas, 26, who suffered from "psychological issues", told police he expected officers to shoot him, according to the source.

Rojas was arrested on charges of driving while intoxicated in both 2008 and 2015, police Commissioner James O'Neill said, losing his license for 90 days.

In the Bronx, neighbours of Rojas was a friendly man who had been having problems.

Patsy Sciutto, who works in Times Square, said she was meeting someone for lunch when an announcement came over a loudspeaker that the building was on lockdown because of an incident outside. In 2012 he served aboard the U.S.S. He was most recently based at the Naval Air Station in Jacksonville, Florida, and was discharged in 2014.

When Long went outside and looked in the direction the auto had gone, she saw at least six people lying on the ground, including a woman lying face-down with blood pouring from her head.

Portage Central Principal Eric Alburtus tells the Detroit Free Press that Elsman was a "kind, compassionate student known around the school for selling delicious muffins she baked in a cooking class". "She was bright. She was amusing".

"But if you could talk to her for a minute, you'd realise she was engaging". The teen was reportedly visiting the city with family when a speeding auto came careening in the wrong direction and struck Elsman, her 13-year-old sister and at least 20 others.

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