Michigan teen killed in NYC

Car plows into pedestrians in Time Square

(WABC Eyewitness News via AP)
IN THIS IMAGE taken from video provided by WABC Eyewitness News, New York City Police officers escort Richard Rojas from the Midtown South Precinct station house in New York. Rojas steered his car onto a sidewalk running through the heart of Times Square on Thursday and mowed down pedestrians for three blocks, killing a Michigan teenager and injuring 22 others, before he was tackled by bystanders, authorities said.

(WABC Eyewitness News via AP) IN THIS IMAGE taken from video provided by WABC Eyewitness News, New York City Police officers escort Richard Rojas from the Midtown South Precinct station house in New York. Rojas steered his car onto a sidewalk running through the heart of Times Square on Thursday and mowed down pedestrians for three blocks, killing a Michigan teenager and injuring 22 others, before he was tackled by bystanders, authorities said.

NEW YORK (AP) — A Times Square motorist accused of steering his car onto one of the busiest sidewalks in the U.S. and mowing down pedestrians has been charged with murder and 20 counts of attempted murder, police say.

The New York Police Department said 26-year-old Richard Rojas, of the Bronx, was charged late Thursday also with five counts of aggravated vehicular homicide.

Rojas was arrested Thursday afternoon after he drove his car for three blocks in Times Square, hitting nearly two dozen people before steel security barriers finally stopped him. An 18-year-old tourist from Michigan was killed. Her 13-year-old sister was among the 22 injured, four of them critically.

Rojas is to be arraigned Friday. It wasn’t clear if he a lawyer.

Officials say he had served in the U.S. Navy but was discharged following disciplinary problems. After his arrest, he told police he was “hearing voices” and expected to die, two law enforcement officials said.

After the wreck he emerged from his vehicle running, yelling and jumping before being subdued by police and bystanders in a chaotic scene.

“He began screaming, no particular words but just utter screaming. He was swinging his arms at the same time, said Ken Bradix, a security supervisor at a nearby Planet Hollywood restaurant who tackled Rojas.

Rojas initially tested negative for alcohol, but more detailed drug tests were pending, according to two law enforcement officials who were not authorized to speak publicly and spoke to The Associated Press on the condition of anonymity. The officials said Rojas told officers he had been hearing voices.

Rojas’ motivation was unclear, but Democratic Mayor Bill de Blasio said there was “no indication that this was an act of terrorism.”

A week ago he was arrested and charged with pointing a knife at a notary, whom he accused of stealing his identity. He pleaded guilty to a harassment violation.

Police identified the woman killed by the car as Alyssa Elsman, of Portage, Michigan.

Elsman graduated last year from Portage Central High School.

“If you didn’t know her, you might think she’s reserved or shy,” school principal Eric Alburtus said. “But if you could talk to her for a minute, you’d realize she was engaging. She was bright. She was funny.”

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