Man who ran over pedestrians was 'hearing voices'

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Police say 26-year-old Richard Rojas struck 23 people in New York City's Times Square Thursday, killing a MI teenager, before his auto was stopped by a row of steel security barriers.

Police said he drove his vehicle for three blocks in Times Square, hitting almost two dozen people, before steel security barriers finally stopped him.

"People were being hit and rolling off the auto", said Josh Duboff, an employee at the adjacent Thomson Reuters headquarters who jumped out of the way to avoid being struck.

Police officers in protective clothes look over evidence at the scene of a fatal auto crash, where a man steered his vehicle onto a sidewalk and mowed down pedestrians, in Times Square, New York, Thursday, May 18, 2017.

An 18-year-old woman was killed and 22 other victims were injured, including the woman's 13-year-old sister, officials said.

The driver, a 26-year-old US Navy veteran, told officers he was hearing voices and expected to die, two police officials said.

Rojas told police after he was tackled following the mayhem in Times Square that police should have shot him to stop him and that he wanted to "kill them all", prosecutors said.

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Pedestrians had little time to react as the auto went the wrong way up the pavement before smashing into a row of steel security barriers installed in recent years to prevent vehicle attacks on the square.

Rojas was most recently arrested on a menacing charge last week for allegedly pulling a knife on an acquaintance in the Bronx.

Police identified the woman killed by the auto as Alyssa Elsman, of Portage, Michigan.

Rojas initially tested negative for alcohol, but more detailed testing was being done to determine if he was high, according to two law enforcement officials who were not authorized to speak publicly and spoke to The Associated Press on the condition of anonymity.

"He went through a real tough time", Ramos said, adding that he had lost contact with Rojas.

The picture that quickly emerged of Rojas from neighbors and authorities was of a man with problems.

Rojas was also charged with drunken driving in 2008 and 2015, according to New York City police. It wasn't clear if he had a lawyer.

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Rojas enlisted in the Navy in 2011. In previous arrests, he told authorities he believed he was being harassed and followed, one of the law enforcement officials said.

The FBI is investigating the incident at the Midtown Manhattan tourist venue, but so far officials say there is no terror link. In 2012 he served aboard the U.S.S.

Navy records show that in 2013 Rojas spent two months at a naval prison in Charleston, South Carolina. They do not indicate why. Rojas spent his final months in the Navy at the Naval Air Station in Jacksonville, Fla., before being discharged in 2014 as the result of a special court martial, a Navy official said.

"There were a lot of people out, enjoying the good day, and then I heard screaming and the auto running over bodies", she said.

"I was just doing something that I hope people would do, because I was trying to do the right thing", he said.

"If you didn't know her, you might think she's reserved or shy", school principal Eric Alburtus said.

"I saw the head injuries and the blood and the victims not moving; I realised... that a vehicle had ran into the crowd just minutes before".

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The apartment building where Rojas lives in the Bronx was cordoned off by police Thursday.

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