The Bronx man charged with mowing down 21 people in Times Square, one fatally, pleaded not guilty in Manhattan Supreme Court on Thursday.
Richard Rojas, 26, is accused of purposely driving his car onto the curb on Seventh Avenue and West 42nd Street just before noon on May 18, and then speeding up on the sidewalk for several blocks, striking people as he drove. He crashed into a metal bollard near 45th Street, jumped from the car and tried to flee before being tackled by a traffic agent and civilians.
Alyssa Elsman, a tourist from Portage, Michigan, was killed when she was struck between 42nd and 43rd streets, police said. Twenty others, including Elsman’s 13-year-old sister, Ava, were injured in the rampage.
Rojas, who police said served in the Navy from 2011 to 2014, has an arrest record, including two previous charges of driving while intoxicated.
After the crash, Rojas allegedly told police that he had smoked marijuana laced with PCP, and yelled after the incident, “I wanted to kill them,” according to court records.
Rojas later told the New York Post that he didn’t remember what he had done, adding, “I can’t believe it.”
Rojas’ attorney, Enrico Demarco, said an examination of his client’s mental health was not ordered yet, but it could be in the future. The case, he said, was “challenging.”
“Terrible what happened to the people in this case, but we live in a civilized society and we have to do the best we can,” he said.
Rojas, who was charged with murder, aggravated vehicular homicide, multiple counts of attempted murder and assault, is due back in court on Oct. 24.