Times Square Crash Driver Charged with Murder, Allegedly ‘Alluded to Suicide by Cop’: Source

The driver of the car that crashed into a crowd in New York City’s Times Square on Thursday, killing one person and injuring 22 others, has been charged with second-degree murder, PEOPLE confirms.

Richard Rojas, 26, also appeared “emotionally disturbed” in his statements to police officers, an N.Y.C. Police Department source alleges.

According to the source, Rojas was allegedly under the influence of synthetic marijuana at the time of the crash, and he later “alluded to suicide by cop” and “the end of days” and said he’d experienced hallucinations.

A police spokesman confirms that, based on his statements to police and preliminary testing, Rojas was allegedly “under the influence of a substance other than alcohol, which he ingested by smoking.”

In addition to the second-degree murder charge, Rojas, a former member of the Navy who lives in the Bronx, faces five counts of aggravated vehicular homicide and 20 counts of attempted murder, according to police.

At a Thursday news conference, New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio said there is “no indication that this was an act of terrorism.”

Rojas remains in the Midtown South Precinct for arrest processing. The New York Times reports that he asked for a lawyer, but information about his attorney was unavailable Friday morning. He has not yet entered a plea.

Authorities say Rojas was driving a red 2009 Honda Accord and, after making an abrupt U-turn around noon on Thursday, mounted the sidewalk on the west side of Seventh Avenue and 42nd Street and then continued at a high speed for three blocks, to 45th Street, hitting pedestrians along the way.

The car came to a stop when it collided with a metal obstruction, according to police.

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O’Neill, at Thursday’s news conference, said, “Preliminary investigation reveals that Rojas has two arrests … for DWI.”

CNN reports that in 2013, with the Navy, Rojas pleaded guilty to drunken driving, failure to pay a just debt, drunk and disorderly conduct and communicating a threat. He was sentenced by a military judge to three months confinement.

Fatal Victim was 18-Year-Old Tourist from Michigan

Eighteen-year-old Alyssa Elsman, a tourist from Portage, Michigan, was killed in the crash, PEOPLE confirms. Elsman’s 13-year-old sister was also hit.

One of Elsman’s relatives told PEOPLE that she, her 13-year-old sister and their mother were walking through Times Square at the time.

Minutes before her death, Elsman shared a picture of Times Square on her Instagram story. She also appeared to have visited before, posting a picture of herself at the intersection of 47th Street and Broadway in April 2016.

“We’re shocked,” said the relative, who asked to remain unidentified. “I mean, at first we didn’t believe this was all real until I got online and looked up.”

“She was a very loving, loving little girl,” the family member recalled of Elsman.

“She looked out for her younger siblings  would always play with them,” the relative said, noting that they hardly argued.

Elsman’s father was on his way to N.Y.C. from Portage, according to the relative.

“It’s disturbing,” the relative said. “I’m still trying to piece it all together.”

from PEOPLE.com http://people.com/crime/times-square-crash-driver-charged-suicide-by-cop/


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