NEW YORK, U.S. - Shocking facts have emerged about the man who causes chaos and panic at New York’s Times Square on Thursday, after he ploughed into a crowd of pedestrians, killing a teenager.
The incident also left 22 people injured and law enforcement officials have identified the man as 26-year-old U.S. Navy veteran, Richard Rojas.
On Thursday afternoon, Rojas, believed to have tested positive for drugs in initial investigation, drove his burgundy Honda saloon along three blocks of pavement in New York's Times Square, mounted the pavement at 45th Street and Broadway at 11:55 local time, causing panic at the bustling tourist spot packed with lunchtime crowd and dozens of tourists.
He drove at high speed for three blocks before crashing into a pole and the car’s right wheels were off the ground, with the front hood of the car crumpled and its trunk opened with smoke and flames escaping the bonnet.
The NYPD said in a brief statement then that the car had lost control between 42nd and 43rd streets near the popular tourist destination.
Medical staff, helped by police officers and passers-by began pouring over the victims, who lay on the ground, many covered in blood, even as officers captured Rojas and arrested him.
According to a worker at Planet Hollywood restaurant, Ken Bardix who was one amongst the many people around that helped police subdue and detain Rojas - “He began screaming, no particular words but just utter screaming. He was swinging his arms at the same time. There was something wrong with him."
Law enforcement sources revealed later in the day that Rojas, who had been arrested twice previously for drink-driving, had told officers after being taken into custody, that he “heard voices.”
He reportedly told officers that he expected to die and according to Reuters, he said after being arrested, "You were supposed to shoot me! I wanted to kill them."
He also told officers that God made him do it.
Police said that they believe he was high on synthetic marijuana or synthetic cannabinoids, known as K2 or Spice (a form of the man-made, mind-altering chemical) and that his initial tests reportedly came back negative for alcohol but positive for drugs.
Rojas was subsequently charged with second-degree murder, aggravated vehicular homicide and multiple counts of attempted murder, a press release from the New York City Police Department stated.
Later on Friday, he is expected to appear in court.
With the incident being similar in its modus operandi to recent terrorist attacks in London, Nice, Berlin and Sweden - authorities have ruled out terrorism as a motive in this incident, with New York Mayor Bill de Blasio confirming to the media that there was "no indication" it was an act of terrorism.
New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo and de Blasio rushed to the scene moments after reports emerged.
Further, White House Press Secretary Sean Spicer tweeted that President Donald Trump, whose home at Trump Tower is a mile from the crash scene was made aware of the incident almost immediately and given updates.
The case is being investigated as an accident, police officials said.
Further, law enforcement sources revealed that Rojas was arrested earlier this month for threatening a man with a knife.
New York Police Commissioner James O'Neill said that in 2015 and before that in 2008, Rojas was arrested for drink-driving.
Before these incidents, in 2013, he spent two months in a military prison in South Carolina, however, the reason was not immediately revealed.
Before that, in 2012, he attacked a taxi driver at a naval base in Florida and shouted "my life is over" and threatened to kill the police - after which he was charged with misdemeanour battery and resisting an officer without violence
Meanwhile, his victim from Thursday’s attack has been identified as 18-years-old, Alyssa Elsman, who had been visiting from Michigan with her family.
She graduated last year from a high school in Portage, Michigan.