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Family of Michigan teen killed in Times Square crash sues city

The lawsuit says city officials failed to keep Times Square safe despite the area being previously targeted for attack.

Alyssa Elsman, shown in 2016, was killed by

Alyssa Elsman, shown in 2016, was killed by a driver who mowed down pedestrians along a sidewalk in Times Square on May 18, 2017. Photo Credit: Portage Central High School

The father of a Michigan teenager killed by a driver who mowed down Times Square pedestrians last year has sued New York City, saying officials should have barred vehicular traffic because it's a terror target.

Thomas Elsman, whose daughter Alyssa Elsman, 18, died in the May 18 attack, accused the city of making plans to address “clear and present security issues” yet failing to implement them, including the use of bollards, road blocks and other measures that could have protected pedestrians when Richard Rojas drove into them, according to a suit filed Tuesday in Manhattan State Supreme Court. Vehicular traffic could have been banned, the suit said.

The city “knew that pedestrians in this area were targeted previously, and remained a target, for criminal activity and terrorist acts, yet the City failed to provide reasonable and expected protection and security from such criminal activity and terrorist acts,” the suit said. 

“We’ll review the complaint and respond accordingly,” said Kimberly Joyce, a spokeswoman for the city's law department.

The teenager was with her younger sister, Ava, when the two and about 20 others were struck by a Honda that suddenly made a U-turn on Seventh Avenue and jumped the curb onto the sidewalk before crashing on Seventh Avenue and 45th Street.

Seven other victims, including Ava Elsman, joined the suit in asking for damages against the city and Rojas.

As evidence of the famous intersection as a terror target, the suit cited the case of Mohamed Rafik Naji, a Yemeni man from Brooklyn who was charged in 2016 after allegedly trying to join the Islamic State terror group and was recorded discussing a truck-style attack in Times Square. Vehicles have been used as deadly weapons in France, where a truck mowed into crowds celebrating Bastille Day in Nice two years ago, killing 86 people, and in Germany, where a truck killed 12 at a Christmas market in Berlin two years ago.

Rojas last year pleaded not guilty to an indictment that includes charges of murder, attempted murder and assault. His case is pending. His attorney could not be reached Tuesday.


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