On the hottest day of the year in NYC so far, with temperatures reaching into the ’90s, Times Square was abuzz with people. Some were taking lunch, others were being tourists and enjoying the weather. All that changed with a tire-screeching U-turn on 42nd and 7th. A car mounted a sidewalk, drove down several streets and left one 18-year-old tourist dead and more than 20 people injured.
Richard Rojas, 26, a former member of the U.S. Navy, was apprehended at the scene of the crime right after crashing his vehicle on 45th and Broadway — probably one of the busiest intersections in the world — and jumping out. Witnesses claim he was crazed and lunged at police as they tried to apprehend him. Some said he was clearly intoxicated at the time. According to NBC News, Rojas was dishonorably discharged from the Navy in 2014 after resisting arrest in Florida. He held the rank of electrician’s mate fireman apprentice.
Rojas crashed into the bollards (those metal rods on the sidewalk) outside of the Swatch flagship store in Times Square.
What's happening in Times Square?? This car was in the sidewalk and people are on the streets pic.twitter.com/PsepRtfrAr
— gb (@gb__) May 18, 2017
The incident ended across the street from the Viacom building, where hundreds of people work.
After climbing up on the sidewalk with his burgundy sedan, Rojas plowed through large groups of people on the busy sidewalk, hitting many in his way before crashing hard, almost flipping the car and running out as flames engulfed the vehicle.
Sidewalks were completely blocked as police and firemen got the situation under control.
13 total patients currently reported at scene of motor vehicle accident in Times Square pic.twitter.com/ySwtL6ZLoc
— FDNY (@FDNY) May 18, 2017
Sources say that Rojas has a history of DUIs and may have been smoking synthetic marijuana, also known as K2.
— Daily Mirror (@DailyMirror) May 18, 2017
After a struggle with police, where his shirt was ripped from his body, he was eventually subdued and arrested.
— ABC News (@ABC) May 18, 2017
Mayor Bill De Blasio arrived on the scene to reassure New Yorkers it was not being considered a terror attack.
NYC Mayor Bill de Blasio on car that plowed into crowd in Times Square: "There's no indication this was terror" https://t.co/dt05WYgnsZ
— NBC News (@NBCNews) May 18, 2017
Video footage shows that safety barriers recently erected by the city saved lives today, eventually bringing the vehicle to a stop.
According to Reuters a 6-year, $55 million renovation was recently completed in Times Square to help with congestion, and to erect the safety bollards that eventually stopped Rojas and his vehicle today.