The 26-year-old man accused of plowing into pedestrians in New York’s Times Square, hitting and killing an 18-year-old woman and injuring 22 others, has been indicted by a grand jury, according to the New York County District Attorney’s Office.
Richard Rojas was indicted Wednesday, though the charges will not be made public until his arraignment July 13 in Manhattan Supreme Court.
His attorney could not immediately be reached for comment.
Following the May 18 rampage, Rojas, a U.S. citizen and resident of the Bronx, was arrested on charges of second-degree murder and attempted murder. Police said Rojas was driving down Seventh Avenue in Manhattan when he made a sudden U-turn and started driving the wrong direction from 42nd to 45th Street “at a high rate of speed both on and off the sidewalk, striking numerous pedestrians,” according to the criminal complaint.
Authorities said Alyssa Elsman, an 18-year-old tourist from Portage, Mich., was struck and killed, and that her 13-year-old sister was injured.
People described the horror on social media, saying a car had driven onto a sidewalk in Times Square, mowed down pedestrians and crashed. Witnesses said the wounded were “laying on the sidewalks” and others were “screaming and running, the place is swarming with emergency vehicles and cops.” Those in the area were told to shelter in place while emergency crews swarmed the scene.
The vehicle sat smoldering, eerily tilted on one side, at the corner of 45th Street.
After Rojas crashed the vehicle, police said, he ran from the scene and said that he wanted to “kill them,” according to the court documents.
Police said Rojas had glassy eyes, was unsteady and slurring his speech. Court records state that Rojas told police that he had been smoking marijuana laced with the mood-altering drug PCP. Preliminary tests showed that Rojas was indeed under the influence of PCP at the time of the incident, according to news reports.
Rojas has a criminal history that includes two arrests for driving while intoxicated — once in 2008 and again in 2015, authorities said. He recently pleaded guilty to harassment after he was accused of pulling a kitchen knife on a notary at his home in the Bronx, according to the Associated Press. Prosecutors said he told the notary, “You’re trying to steal my identity,” according to the news agency.
Rojas does not have to enter a plea on the charges of second-degree murder and attempted murder until his arraignment in Manhattan next month.