Bronx man who plowed SUV into Times Square crowd, killing girl, 18, is found ‘not responsible’


Schizophrenic Bronx man who said ‘I want to kill them all’ when he plowed SUV into Times Square crowd, killing girl, 18, and injured 22 others, is found ‘not responsible by reason of mental defect’, jury rules

  • Richard Rojas had pleaded not guilty to charges of second-degree murder and attempted murder 
  • Rojas, a Navy veteran, will undergo further examination before he settled at a mental facility 
  • His brother testified during the trial that Rojas would often speak in tongues

The man who killed 18-year-old Alyssa Elsman and injured 22 other pedestrians after plowing through a crowd in Times Square in 2017 has been found not responsible for his crime by reason of insanity.

Richard Rojas, who suffers with schizophrenia, 31, learned of his fate on June 22. 

Rojas, a US Navy veteran and native of The Bronx, had pleaded not guilty to second-degree murder, 18 counts of attempted murder and 38 counts assaults. 

The jury deliberated for six hours in the case. Judge Daniel Conviser said that Rojas will undergo further psychiatric examinations before he is sentenced to an institution. 

The several weeks long trial revolved around Rojas’ mental state at the time of the horrific incident. 

The several week long trial revolved around Rojas' mental state at the time of the horrific incident

The several week long trial revolved around Rojas’ mental state at the time of the horrific incident

18-year-old Alyssa Elsman was on vacation in New York City at the time of her death

18-year-old Alyssa Elsman was on vacation in New York City at the time of her death

Alyssa Elsman, 18 (front left) pictured with her family in Times Square. Elsman was killed when Rojas ran her over

Alyssa Elsman, 18 (front left) pictured with her family in Times Square. Elsman was killed when Rojas ran her over

While his lawyers said that he ‘lost his mind,’ prosecutors said that the suspect was aware that he was in a populated area when he drove into the crowd.  

During the trial, Rojas’ brother, Wilmer Varas testified that the killer began developing mental health issues at the age of 11, fifteen years before the attack in Times Square at the age of 26.

Varas said that Rojas would speak in tongues and complained of hearing voices in his head. 

Following the attack, Rojas told a traffic cop: ‘I wanted to kill them all.’ 

Another startling testimony in the trial came from Alyssa Elsman’s younger sister who told the jury about her horror watching her sister die.  

Richard Rojas, 31, learned of his fate on June 22

Richard Rojas, 31, learned of his fate on June 22

A breakdown of the Rojas' attack and his victims from the New York City district attorney's office. Rojas killed an 18-year-old girl and injured 22 others during the attack

A breakdown of the Rojas’ attack and his victims from the New York City district attorney’s office. Rojas killed an 18-year-old girl and injured 22 others during the attack

Prosecutors say Rojas drove his car from the Bronx, where he lived with his mother, through Times Square on May 18, 2017, then made a U-turn.

He then steered his car onto a sidewalk, and roared back up the sidewalk for three blocks before he crashed his car into protective barriers.

Photographers snapped pictures of a wild-eyed Rojas after he climbed from the wrecked car and ran through the street waving his arms. 

At the time, the U.S. Navy veteran told police after his arrest that he had been smoking marijuana laced with the hallucinogenic drug PCP before the incident, authorities said. 

 In 2012, he was arrested and accused of beating a cab driver whom he said had disrespected him by trying to charge too much, according to the arrest report. The arresting officer said Rojas screamed, ‘My life is over!’ as he was being detained. After his arrest, Rojas told the officer he was going to kill all police and military police he might see after his release from jail, the Jacksonville sheriff’s office report stated.

Alan Ceballos, an attorney who represented Rojas in that case, said the state charges were dropped after the military stepped in to take jurisdiction over the criminal case.

Navy records show that in 2013 Rojas spent two months at a naval prison in Charleston, South Carolina. He was discharged in 2014 as the result of a special court martial, a Navy official said.

 Rojas enlisted in the Navy in 2011 and served for part of 2012 aboard the USS Carney, a destroyer. Rojas spent his final months in the Navy at the Naval Air Station in Jacksonville, Florida.

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