Car plows into Times Square pedestrians, killing 1 and injuring 20
NEW YORK — A man who appeared intoxicated drove his car the wrong way up a Times Square street Thursday and plowed into pedestrians on the sidewalk, killing a teenager and injuring about 20 others, authorities and witnesses said.
Pandemonium erupted when the vehicle barreled through the prime tourist location and came to rest with two of its wheels in the air. The car leaned on a lamppost and steel barriers intended to block vehicles from getting onto the sidewalk.
The crash happened at midday on a hot, clear day that brought large crowds of people into the streets to enjoy the good weather. Video posted online showed steam or smoke pouring from the car for a few moments after it stopped moving.
Two law enforcement officials say the driver, Richard Rojas, a 26-year-old Navy veteran, told officers he was hearing voices and expected to die.
The two law enforcement officials say Rojas tested negative for alcohol, but drug tests were still pending.
Police say the 26-year-old Navy veteran was arrested last week after he pointed a knife at a notary and accused the notary of stealing his identity.
One official says Rojas told authorities when arrested previously that he believed he was being followed.
Terrorism isn't suspected in the crash.
Asa Lowe, of Brooklyn, was standing outside the Levi store when he heard screaming, turned around and saw the car hitting people on the sidewalk.
"He's just mowing down people. He didn't stop. He just kept going," Lowe said.
After the car struck a barricade and stopped, the driver climbed out of his vehicle.
"He got out of the car and he just started running until people tackled him down," Lowe said. "Citizens just reacted."
The 26-year-old driver from the Bronx has a history of driving while intoxicated, according to the law enforcement official, who spoke on condition of anonymity because the investigation was ongoing.
Police do not suspect a link to terrorism, but the bomb squad has responded as a precaution to check the vehicle.
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 White House said President Donald Trump has been "made aware" of the situation in Times Square and will continue to receive updates as the situation unfolds. Press secretary Sean Spicer tweeted that Trump was briefed before New York authorities confirmed the death.
New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo was at the scene of the crash, and police and city officials were expected there.
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.
New Jersey 101.5 on Tuesday reported about Homeland Security officials warning the public about vehicle-ramming attacks.
More from New Jersey 101.5
The Associated Press contributed to this report.