Driver in deadly Time Square crash is former Mayport-based sailor

Former Naval Station Mayport sailor drives into 23 people in Times Square

NEW YORK - The driver arrested for killing a woman and injuring 22 people when his car slammed into a crowd in New York's Time Square was a former crew member at Naval Station Mayport in Jacksonville, a Pentagon spokesperson confirmed to First Coast News.

Richard Rojas, 26, was honorably discharged from the Navy in May 2014. He received a National Defense Service Medal during his service. He once served aboard the USS Carney.

Rojas is a Bronx, New York native. Police said Rojas was taken into custody and was being given a breathalyzer test.

Photos from the scene showed multiple victims on the ground near the maroon Honda sedan, which came to rest on two wheels, wedged up against a light pole and metal barriers. It was not immediately clear what caused the crash.

"There is no indication that this was an act of terrorism," Mayor Bill de Blasio said. "That being said, we are reinforcing key locations around the city with our anti-terror units of NYPD."

De Blasio lauded the quick efforts of police, fire, and emergency medical teams. But he added: "It's a tough day for New York City."

NYPD Commissioner James O'Neill said Rojas had two prior DUI arrests.

Rojas was arrested in Jacksonville in 2012 at Naval Station Mayport. He was charged with battery for attacking a taxi cab driver in his barracks over a $44 fare, according to a police report. 

When arrested, he yelled "My life is over," the report said. 

After being read his Miranda rights, Rojas said he was going to beat up the driver because he owed him $162 and disrespected him, the report said. He threatened to "kill all police and military people he might see after he [was] released from jail."

He was also charged with resisting arrest following the altercation.  The charges were dropped in Duval County in 2013. Rojas was discharged from the military in May 2014.

White House spokesman Sean Spicer said President Trump was made aware of the incident.

Brooklyn resident Asa Lowe was standing outside the Levi's store enjoying the weather when he heard screaming. He turned around and saw the car hitting people on the sidewalk.  

He says the driver was "just mowing down people. He didn't stop."
  
The car hit a barricade and stopped. Lowe says the driver then got out of his car and started running until people tackled him. Lowe saw injured people, including a woman who "had tracks all over her body."

Tourists Patrick and Kelly Graves of Sheboygan, Wisconsin, were waiting to get on a tour bus when they heard the crash.

Kelly Graves said she feared the worst, maybe a bomb, as "chaos" erupted and people began running. People rushed to help the injured, who were lying on the sidewalk.

The sidewalks in many parts of Times Square and surrounding blocks are lined with metal posts designed to prevent cars from getting onto the sidewalks and other public areas.

That network of barricades, though, is far from a complete defense. There are many areas where vehicles could be driven onto packed sidewalks or public plazas.

Times Square also has a heavy police presence at all hours of the day and night.

 

© 2017 USATODAY.COM


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