NEW YORK (FOX5NY) - A man accused of mowing down a crowd of Times Square pedestrians, killing a teenage tourist, said that he wanted to "kill them all" and that officers should have shot him to stop him, prosecutors said Friday.
Richard Rojas, 26, appeared subdued during a brief court appearance where prosecutors detailed a felony murder charge.
He didn't enter a plea. Rojas's lawyer and weeping supporters had no comment. He's due back in court next week.
Rojas told police after he was tackled following the mayhem in Times Square that police should have shot him to stop him and that he wanted to "kill them all," prosecutors said. He told police that he had smoked marijuana laced with PCP, according to a criminal complaint. Investigators are awaiting blood test results.
Rojas sped in the wrong direction on 7th Avenue, jumped a curb, drove on the sidewalk for three blocks, plowed into dozens of pedestrians, and finally crashed into a pole. One woman was killed and 20 others were hurt, three of them critically. A 38-year-old woman from Canada was in very critical condition, said NYPD Chief of Manhattan South Detectives William Aubry.
He also thanked the police and onlookers who chased and captured the driver as he tried to run away from the scene. The violent incident unfolded just before noon on a hot, clear day that had brought crowds of tourists and Manhattan workers into the area.
The out-of-control car crashed into a sidewalk at Broadway and W. 45th Street. The maroon Honda sedan was left on top of a pole at the intersection.
A witness told Fox 5 News that people screamed as the car ran into and over pedestrians. Others managed to run away in the chaos.
Police do not suspect a link to terrorism but the White House said that President Donald Trump was "made aware" of what happened.
Jared Sabater was in Times Square and said he saw the car racing at him but it crashed just short of him. He said he and a group of about five people chased the driver after he jumped out of the car. They tried to grab him but he fought them until a bouncer and traffic agent tackled and restrained him until police were able to arrest him.
The NYPD took Richard Rojas, 26, of the Bronx, into custody. He was being tested for alcohol and drugs, Police Commissioner James O'Neill said. The AP later reported that Rojas tested negative for alcohol but drug tests were pending, according to police sources, who also said he told cops he was hearing voices.
Rojas has had two prior driving while intoxicated incidents, the NYPD said. Police are looking into his other possible run-ins with the law.
New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio said Rojas is a U.S. citizen and former sailor in the U.S. Navy. He was in the service from 2011 to 2014 and most recently was based at Naval Air Station Jacksonville, Florida, the Navy said. The military discharged him in 2014 after a court martial.
Police had backed up crowds from the area had removed several items from Rojas' vehicle as part of the investigation.
7th Avenue was closed in both directions between W. 42nd Street and W. 57th Street. Police asked people to avoid Times Square because of the emergency activity and closed several other streets in the normally busy area. They reopned several streets a few hours later, but the immediate area around the crime scene remained closed.
New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo visited the scene and met with police officials. "Today's events at Times Square were nothing short of horrific," Cuomo said. "As facts continue to emerge, my heart goes out to the victims of this terrible tragedy, as well as their families."
What's happening in Times Square?? This car was in the sidewalk and people are on the streets pic.twitter.com/PsepRtfrAr— gb (@gb__) May 18, 2017
People are laying on the sidewalks in Times Square, a car seems to have run on the sidewalk. pic.twitter.com/g2efKLfoX8— gb (@gb__) May 18, 2017
Due to a vehicle collision with pedestrian injuries, emergency vehicles are in the area of #TimesSquare. Expect delays in the area.— NYPD NEWS (@NYPDnews) May 18, 2017