NYPD: This Is Not Terrorism; Driver Richard Rojas Of The Bronx Has 2 Prior DWIs

UPDATED 05/19/17 12:16 a.m.

NEW YORK (CBSNewYork) — One person was killed and 22 people injured after being struck by a car in Times Square shortly before noon Thursday.


As CBS2’s Jessica Layton reported, surveillance video captured the calm of people walking around Times Square at lunchtime before the out-of-control car changed everything. As the car zoomed through, people were thrown from its hood and left disoriented on the sidewalk.

Alyssa Elsman, 18, of Portage, Michigan, was killed after being struck by the red Honda Accord before it came to a stop by crashing into steel barriers at 45th Street and Seventh Avenue, Mayor Bill de Blasio said. The 22 injured victims included Elsman’s 13-year-old sister.

Four of victims were initially reported in critical condition. Six others were rushed to Mount Sinai West Hospital, with two in serious condition and four others expected to be treated and released.

NYC Health + Hospitals Bellevue reported two people in serious condition late Thursday afternoon.

Police escort 26-year-old Richard Rojas, the man suspected of driving through Times Square killing one person and injuring 22 others on May 18, 2017. (credit: CBS2)

A traffic agent, patrol officer, and others immediately apprehended the driver, Richard Rojas, after the incident.

Rojas was charged early Friday with one count of second-degree murder, 20 counts of attempted murder, and five counts of aggravated vehicular homicide.

Rojas, 26, of the Bronx, has been arrested twice before for driving while intoxicated.

Authorities said that preliminary information showed no terror connection, although the NYPD has increased patrols at other spots around the city.

Witnesses described the driver, who was seen in a crosswalk moments before the crash, as looking completely crazed before he was taken into custody. As people ran for their lives, minds were racing over whether it was all an accident or an act of terrorism.

City officials quickly set the record straight.

“This is not an act of terror,” de Blasio said. Nonetheless, the NYPD increased its security posture at a number of major sites across the city “out of an abundance of caution,” he added.

Rojas is a U.S. citizen and a former member of the U.S. Navy, de Blasio said.

The incident began at 11:54 a.m. as Rojas was driving south on Seventh Avenue through Times Square, police said.

“As he approaches 42nd Street, he makes a quick U-turn on to the west side street, the west side sidewalk of Seventh Avenue and 42nd Street,” said NYPD Chief of Manhattan South Detectives William Aubry. “He proceeds on that west side sidewalk for 3 and half blocks, where he hits a stanchion.”

The car went flying and also caught fire when it finally struck the stanchion along the sidewalk at 45th Street.

“I was walking. There were bodies scattered everywhere; people injured,” said witness Kevin Sykes.

“I saw the flames coming up from under the hood of the car and somebody was getting pulled out from under the car,” said tourist Annette Proehl.

“If it wasn’t for the pole, we would’ve been injured,” added a teenage witness.

Rojas got out of the car and was tackled and taken into custody.

“They get him in the patrol car, they get him back to Midtown South Precinct, he makes certain statements which I’m not going to get into right now,” Aubry added.

Rojas was being tested for drugs and alcohol and blew zero on a Breathalyzer, police sources said. He told police he “smoked something.”

Sources said Rojas may have been under the influence of some drug. It was not known if the drug was K2.

Sources said Rojas initially tested positive for marijuana. Further testing was under way late Thursday to determine whether there were any additional drugs in his system.

Police sources also said a possible motive for the incident was suicide by cop.

“The driver tried to run from the scene, and the bouncer from Planet Hollywood hit him, so we jumped on top of him and ripped his shirt, wanted to make sure he had no gun or knife on him,” a tour bus ticket agent told CBS2’s Janelle Burrell. “I see the car coming in fast, no brake, no nothing. Bang! Before I realized it there’s fire on the car… my co-worker jumped from the scene. … I don’t smell alcohol because he turned around and we saw his face. He said to make him loose. … Anything happens here there’s no time for people to react.”

CBS2 caught up with the Planet Hollywood bouncer, Kenya Bradix, who is being hailed as a hero after taking on the suspect.

“I saw the guy run into the poll. I heard people screaming: ‘Get him! Get him!’ After I heard the screaming, I just did what anyone would do,” Bradix said. “I have 25 years of experience in security, so it was a kneejerk reaction for me. It was just one of those things. I didn’t want to just sit around and let things go.”

Once the scene was secured, police began looking into the car.

“Everyone was just kind of hanging out and the car just came and hit the pole out of nowhere,” a witness told CBS2’s Alice Gainer. “People were going to the scene to check it out. There was actually a guy trapped in the car. Within 45 seconds [first responders] were on the scene. People were concerned it was going to be a bomb.”

Eventually, police started moving everyone back several blocks because, as one officer said, they indeed did not know what was in the car.

Several witnesses described the horror of the scene afterward.

“I’m scared, it’s very surprising but scary at the same time. Just how one person may end up doing this, out of the blue,” said another witness. He also said he heard a “huge bang” when the crash happened.

“The car just came really fast and injured a lot of people. We actually saw the people in the ground and tried to help but we couldn’t do anything.”

“It made like a path and that’s it,” another witness told Gainer. “They caught the person after a couple of seconds. It’s really tragic. .. Some woman in front of us she died and lot of people had serious injuries. Blood everywhere, we kept looking at ourselves like what can we do. But the police came really fast. I just feel like everybody had no reaction because we tried to help .. it’s just like people on the ground hit by a car, there’s not much we could do and everybody was like really stunned and we didn’t know what to do. It was really a terrible scene.”

“There was a lot of tourists here buying tickets for Phantom of the Opera because there’s a 2 p.m. show,” a witness told CBS2’s Burrell. “Also a lot of people sitting and having lunch and talking, it was a nice day. What happened was a surprise, I just heard the sound of the car on fire … It happened so fast, it was a lot of smoke and fire, you couldn’t see nothing. … It was a very big surprise, I was scared because I remember Paris and I was scared to get closer.”

Many victims felt sad for the young woman who was killed and for those struck, They said they also felt lucky they weren’t hit themselves.

“Being that I got hit by pebble, yeah, I’m pretty damn lucky today,” one witness said.

“I had to get off the street, and if I hadn’t, I’d probably be dead,” a woman said.

Mayor de Blasio and Gov. Andrew Cuomo both offered their thoughts and prayers to the victims in the incident.

“We all feel deeply right now for those who were injured and for the families and particularly for the family of the young woman who was lost, our prayers are with her family and with all those right now who are suffering because of this horrible incident,” de Blasio said.

“Today’s events at Times Square were nothing short of horrific,” said Cuomo. “As facts continue to emerge, my heart goes out to the victims of this terrible tragedy, as well as their families.”

“This is a tough day for New York City, but as usual, the people of New York City will stand firm, will be resilient,” de Blasio said.

Traffic in the area was rerouted and much of the area was blocked off. Times Square was only partially back open five hours after the incident.

Click here to check current traffic conditions.

The car was removed from the scene around 8:30 p.m. after police investigated and processed the scene.

Some road closures continued as of 10:30 p.m. Seventh Avenue was closed between 40th and 57th streets, 45th and 46th streets were closed between Sixth and Eighth avenues, and 43rd Street was closed between Sixth and Seventh avenues.

The car was hoisted onto the back of a trailer and hauled away.

President Donald Trump was made aware of the situation, White House Press Secretary Sean Spicer tweeted.

Suspect Rojas was arrested in 2008 and 2015 for drinking and driving. He was most recently arrested earlier this month for menacing, Aubry said.

Rojas was also arrested on suspicion of battery in 2012 at the Mayport Naval Base in Jacksonville, Florida, where he was stationed at the time.

Rojas was taken to NYC Health + Hospitals/Bellevue for a medical evaluation after he was apprehended.

Comments (91)
  1. Fiala L says:

    Two previous DWIs and now this? People of NYC can now take comfort in the fact that he’ll probably receive a lengthy prison term this time…..like maybe six months with four months suspended.

  2. Rest assured we won’t get the right story from Comrade DeBlasio’s propaganda ministers.

    1. Bijou Bijou says:

      BigBird is a Lib and will cover for a Muzz.

  3. If I was a Leftist I would be celebrating the fact that conservatives were killed in this assault. Yet they were Liberals being from NYC………

  4. abroad1 says:

    “President Trump has been made aware of the situation ” ????
    What will Trump do ? is he a traffic cop ? Will he be made aware of all auto accidents and hit and runs in the nation now ?

    1. If it’s terrorism, your boy, Obama, will be cheering. If the driver’s an illegal alien who should have been deported, your boy, Obama, will be cheering.

    2. I think that no matter who is President, they let the President know about it.

  5. Joe Johnson says:

    Deported six times, no doubt, but it’s all good.

    1. Adam Spencer says:

      He was a former member of the navy so I doubt he was deported, but you sir, are certainly racist.

      1. Page Turner says:

        And you’re an ignorant cultist. What race is hispanic?

        1. Adam Spencer says:

          No one used the term Hispanic except you, and the sad fact that another veteran struggling with substance use disorder not only killed someone, but likely lost his freedom is what the story is about. I like how everyone assumes I am liberal when I am not, I am a veteran and that is why I commented. People that troll on here are the ones that give republicans a bad name. Building a wall is surely going to keep a navy veteran from getting drunk and plowing into an innocent 18 year old girl.

      2. The gentleman was just responding to the possible sad results as a result of liberal stupidity in how they handle illegals.

  6. The control-freaks like Bloomberg will move to mandate remote-kill switches next.
    They have already restricted our access to weapons, food, healthcare, cheap energy and cash.
    The ability to move about freely is their next frontier.

    1. abroad1 says:

      Some people never miss an opportunity , even though it is not remotely related to the article, to voice their complaints .. about anything and everything.

  7. Steve Oroszi says:

    At this early stage, how can the Mayor unequivocally say it is or isn’t anything at this point?

  8. How the hell is it that we get an age, and prior DWI’s, but no name and description?

    1. He’s a “colored person”…so police dont like telling that.

    2. One thing should be clear to all; BadVlad engineered this to help Trump and hurt Hillery. James Comey has a memo he wrote to Trump, three months back, predicting this very assault by a red Honda; but no effort to prevent it was made. We need a Special Prosecutor to get to the bottom of this outrage. So there’s that.

  9. laserw says:

    Two prior DWI’s?

    The laws need to be changed – you get on DWI and that is it. If you are caught a second time, you should be executed. It is obvious this person doesn’t care and doesn’t respect our laws. Now he has taken a life without giving that person due process.

    1. Craig Book says:

      DUI laws are already too strict. They take a blanket, arbitrary number, and associate it with everyone. They say if your blood level is x, you are committing a crime, whether you have the physical and mental ability to get from point a to point b just as safe as the next guy or not. It’s a pure money grab from the state.

      That being said, this man should get the electric chair. If someone decides to drink alcohol to the extent that it causes them to injure another, then they should be put in prison. But punishing people because they “might” do this, or “might” do that is absolutely asinine.

  10. @NYPD tell the TRUTH and don’t LIE like most politicians do about these things.
    Even Europe doesn’t cover for terrorists.

  11. Sam Dennis says:

    Why is Governor Cuomo on the scene? He isn’t an EMT or a trained investigator… so why is he there?

    1. He’s there for the coveted live shot.

  12. Wes Buckman says:

    Release the name and religions affiliation NOW.

  13. Tomas Cruz says:

    Richard (Ricardo) Rojas, 26 from the Bronx. I wonder if he’s one of Obama’s dreamers?

  14. Not terrorism? They just reported a second “DWI” knocking down people on Statin Island. Hold on for more, and wait to say it’s not the usual suspects.

  15. Little early for drinking, no? But, we do know if it was a white person the name and mug shot would already be released.

  16. Jake Holeman says:

    I saw the guy at Monty’s bar, grill and debate room this morning. I was having the usual.

    He complained about Mount Rushmore, the Lincoln Monument; all statues glorifying white
    U.S. Presidents. Considered all of them, RACIST. Wants them torn down and destroyed.

    The complexion of America. It’s good for men to marry another man, to abort unborn
    children, to not build a war that would prevent intrusion into our nation by undesirables.

    The tail is wagging the dog, people. We are in harm’s way.

  17. Immediately they scream “not a terrorist,not a terrorist”! Yeah,right.

  18. DWI is that Driving with Iraqi or driving with Iranian?

  19. Jacob Sonny says:

    If the name isn’t revealed yet then you know it is a white male.

    1. Jeff Montana says:

      That’s not how it works at all, Sambo.

  20. Carter Gwynn says:

    We know the driver’s age and his record but we don’t know his name? Why is that?

    1. Tony Konte says:

      Obviously the name is not a Amish name and might sound to Arabic shich might cause readers to jump to conclusions.

    2. Paul Roberts says:

      I bet the name was not released because it is Muhammad.

      1. Paul Roberts says:

        Sorry Muhammad, Not this time. His name is Richard Rojas.

  21. Jim Hinkle says:

    The article says “people were going to the scene to check it out”. Don’t ever do this. If there is a possible terror attack in process, which might include a bomb in the vehicle, your best bet is to leave the scene immediately.

  22. Carter Gwynn says:

    Another high capacity assault vehicle. No one needs needs tools of death. Where is the common sense assault vehicle control?

    1. Paul Roberts says:

      Time to ban Honda Accords. They can be used as a terror attack vehicle. Especially the Red ones. The “26-year-old man from the Bronx has two prior DWIs, according to the NYPD” Will he be getting off Scott free on this one too?

  23. Jeff Montana says:

    Nothing to see here, goyim. Not terrorism, goyim.

  24. JC Williams says:

    Right…lets get his name and photo out there then……liberal denial…..continues

  25. How did the victims vote? Enable much?

  26. Brad Hudgens says:

    It’s like 12pm. How drunk can you get before noon!?!?!?

    1. Simone Gemma says:

      You know it’s terrorism related when they say it’s not. Moving right along. Condolences for another INNOCENT LIFE LOST! Fight the war on LIBERALS!

  27. Frank Muller says:

    Whatever it is we’ll never be told the truth.

  28. Joe Johnson says:

    Muhammadans get drunk all the time.

    1. Especially a day or two before their big bang.

  29. If you want to take out a bunch of liberals, you don’t go to Salt Lake City, you go to New York.

  30. Sounds like someone’s been playing GTA a bit too much. XD

  31. Kelley Eidem says:

    Broadway “joehadi?

  32. Al LaPointe says:

    “Times Square is pretty much under lockdown right now”. What crappy writing. Where do they get journalists these days, elementary school?

    1. No because that would imply SOME schooling of this illiterate writers. They’ve learned to read and write on twitter and faceplant.

    2. It is a direct quote from someone at the scene. Maybe some reading comprehension would help.

  33. Andre Paquin says:

    Sudden Jihad Syndrome?

    1. How about reading the article first before making accusations. “The driver, a 26-year-old man from the Bronx”

  34. Must be an Episcopalian radical.

  35. Ralph Davis says:

    I’ll put $1000 on “Religion of Peace”




  37. Bob Johnson says:

    I wonder if the Judges on the 9thCircuit will pay any attention to this. or will they merely rule against the Trump Administration on the travel ban because Trump is a big meany?

  38. Jack Frost says:

    Based on the superficiality of the report, chances are VERY HIGH that the perp fits the profile (pardon the curse word!) of others who this type of thing.

  39. Steve Hollar says:

    Ah, but let’s focus on some phony bs about Trump and the Russians instead of this possible terror attack. After all, to the twisted, mentally ill democrats, nothing is more important than to destroy Trump. The health of the nation and prosperity of it’s people be damned.

  40. John Steele says:

    So far the motive behind the incident in unknown – whether it was a medical condition or something else..
    Med condition.. yah right.. Muslim hit guy… Always in a DemoRat occupied state..

  41. Maybe we need background checks and waiting periods before someone can purchase a car?

  42. Chuck Yates says:

    Sounds like another muslim helping his community.

  43. Anyone want to bet that the driver is an illegal muslim?

    1. Donna Chan says:

      Liberals with their identity politics and naive cries for “diversity” have become the pawns for Jihad and Hijrah. Radical Islam is an archaic, primitive belief system that has resulted in millions of deaths and NO forward advance of cultures it infects.

      It’s laughable these “progressives”, who are supposed to want societal progress, want to import these refugees into our country and into the West.

      We can no longer afford to house these 3rd world invaders. It’s too risky. America is struggling enough as it is. Most of us are making below living wage and had our health insurance forcefully taken away by Obama. My healthcare is up to $520 per month; compare this to my $25 per month car insurance (from Insurance Panda) or my $10/month life insurance. Both private enterprise (take note, Dems). Do we really want our tax dollars aiding these terrorists?

      You can’t coexist with someone who wants to chop your head off.

      1. Simone Gemma says:

        A young person lost their life and YOU’RE PEDDLING PANDA insurance, you’re almost as nauseating as the terrorists^

  44. jgfox39 says:

    It may be just a terrible accident. If they don’t immediately release the name … it is likely the Word That Cannot Be Spoken.

  45. Rob Bruce says:

    “whether it was a medical condition or something else” yes, of course it is, its Islam which is clearly is a mental illness.

  46. I thought it was against the religion of the Amish to drive motorized vehicles.

  47. Red Honda? Clearly the Russians.

    1. No doubt Trump was driving.

      1. Maybe your mom was giving him head?

      2. It was Putin driving!!! There is a connection to Russia lets have an independent Prosecutor ASAP!!

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