Published: Tue, May 23, 2017
National | By Rosalie Gross

Richard Rojas charged with murder after Times Square crash

Richard Rojas charged with murder after Times Square crash

Christopher Beekharry, his wife Sunita Prasad and their two children, ages 3 and 6, were visiting from the South American CARICOM nation of Guyana and touring Times Square, New York with their uncle on Thursday, May 18 when they saw a auto racing towards them on the side walk.

Richard Rojas, 26, has been charged with second-degree murder and 20 counts of vehicular assault for allegedly plowing into the pedestrians on the sidewalks. They also described him as emotionally disturbed.

Rojas, who was eventually subdued by police and bystanders, tested negative for alcohol, but is suspected of being high on K2, a synthetic drug which has been wreaking havoc across the nation. Sources told the New York Post that Rojas said to police, "You were supposed to shoot me!"

"She was just a great person and a great friend and she always was", said friend and co-worker Tramaine Carmouche.

Rojas reportedly gave a rambling, and sometime contradictory, testimony to police. He drove down the sidewalk for three blocks. He barreled straight up the sidewalk, knocking down some pedestrians as others ran in terror, before he crashed his auto into protective barriers.

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Twenty three people were struck by the auto before it was stopped by a security barrier. After mowing down 23 people, the red Honda Accord crashed into barricades meant to stop runaway vehicles.

An 18-year-old tourist from MI was killed. Her 13-year-old sister was among the 22 injured, four of them critically. "She was bright. She was amusing". He told reporters at the scene that Rojas is a US citizen and a former member of the armed forces with the US Navy. In previous arrests, he told authorities he believed he was being harassed and followed, one of the police officials said. "First he punched me a couple of times and then he started kicking me and got on top of me and telling me that he would kill me".

NYC Mayor Bill de Blasio hurriedly announced it was no act of terrorism but an isolated incident. Rojas, a Bronx resident, had been discharged from the U.S. Navy following disciplinary problems.

Just last Thursday, Rojas was arrested for menacing, accused of pulling a kitchen knife on a visitor to his Bronx home.

"In 2008 he was arrested in Queens for drinking and driving, and also in 2015 he was arrested in Manhattan for drinking and driving", said William Aubry, NYPD chief of Manhattan South detectives. He enlisted in 2011, served as an electrician's mate fireman apprentice, and was most recently based at the Naval Air Station in Jacksonville, Florida.

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