The man accused of steering his car onto one of the busiest sidewalks in Times Square and mowing down pedestrians Thursday has been charged with murder and 20 counts of attempted murder.
Richard Rojas, of the Bronx, also was charged late Thursday with five counts of aggravated vehicular homicide, police said.
The 26-year-old Rojas was arrested Thursday afternoon after his car sped down three blocks in Times Square, hitting nearly two dozen people before steel security barriers finally stopped him.
An 18-year-old tourist from Michigan, Alyssa Elsman, was killed. Her 13-year-old sister was among the 22 injured, four of them critically.
Rojas had an arraignment scheduled for Friday. It wasn’t clear if he had a lawyer.
The suspect had served in the U.S. Navy but was discharged after disciplinary problems, military officials said. After his arrest, he told police he was “hearing voices” and expected to die, two law enforcement officials said.
Several witnesses told Fox News after the driver crashed, he tried to escape; however, he was ultimately pinned to the ground by five people who held him at the scene until police arrived.
“It sounded like a bomb going off,” said Dave Willis, a tourist from the U.K. “I ran over and it was over in seconds. He was tackled to the ground.”
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.
The carnage unfolded in a part of the city that has long been considered a possible terrorist target because of its large crowds, a concern that became elevated after the Sept. 11 attacks and compounded by recent attacks in England, France and Germany in which vehicles plowed through crowds of pedestrians.
Rojas’ motivation was unclear, but Democratic Mayor Bill de Blasio said there was “no indication that this was an act of terrorism.”
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.”
Elsman’s 13-year-old sister was also struck by the car, but survived, police said.
The Assocated Press contributed to this report.