NEW YORK (CBSNewYork) — There were reports Sunday evening of a jailhouse apology from the U.S. Navy veteran charged with ramming his car into a crowd of Times Square pedestrians last week.
As CBS2’s Dave Carlin reported, it may be an uphill battle if Richard Rojas, 26, expects forgiveness — especially in a small New Jersey town in Middlesex County where two of the injured are from.
Two injured teens from the Times Square rampage are high school students in Dunellen, New Jersey.
Jessica Williams, 19, was critically injured. Teenage classmate Destiny Lightfoot is home from the hospital with broken bones and other injuries.
“We are small town, and out of anyone in Times Square, we didn’t think that our friends or our classmates would’ve gotten hit by that car,” said Nick Herbig of Dunellen.
“We were all just like shocked,” said Crystal Harmon of Dunellen.
The two students were away from their high school and in Times Square because it was class skip day for seniors.
CBS2 was told by the family of Lightfoot that she was not ready to talk about it publicly Sunday.
There were comments from relatives of Williams, who suffered the far more serious injuries and pulled through an operation that removed her spleen.
“I pray that she will, you know, become 100 percent,” said Joseph DiNuzzo, Williams’ boss at a pizza restaurant in Fairfield, New Jersey where she works part time. “You know, eventually, she’ll be OK.”
Many in Dunellen were puzzled by the words of the suspect Rojas in the New York Post.
In an exclusive Rikers Island jail house interview, Rojas told the newspaper he has a gap in his memory.
He told the paper: “The last thing I remember is driving in my car. Then, I woke up in the precinct. I was terrified.”
“I think it’s just him trying to cope with what he did. It’s just messed up,” said Eric Gordon of Dunellen.
“Honestly, I just think he should be put in jail for life, to be honest,” Herbig said.
Rojas, of the Bronx, faced a judge Friday on one count of second-degree murder, 20 counts of attempted murder and one count of aggravated vehicular homicide.
“I just want to apologize to all the victims’ families,” Rojas told the Post. “I want to apologize to my mother.”
Police said Rojas sped his car down Seventh Avenue around noon Thursday before making a sharp U-turn and jumping the curb at 42nd Street, where the first person was hit. He went on to mow down nearly two dozen people, police said.
Alyssa Elsman, 18, of Portage, Michigan, was killed in the incident. Her younger sister, Eva Elsman, 13, was injured.
According to a criminal complaint, police observed that Rojas “had glassy eyes, slurred speech and was unsteady.” Rojas also allegedly told an officer, “I smoked marijuana. I laced the marijuana with PCP,” according to the complaint.
Prosecutors alleged Rojas said, “I wanted to kill them,” and that police should have shot him.
If you would like to help the young victims from Dunellen, there are GoFundMe pages set up for both Williams and Lightfoot.