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Suspect in NY Crash Charged with Murder

  • VOA News

The car driven by a man who steered his car onto a busy Times Square sidewalk, killing a teenager and injuring nearly two dozen others, is removed by police and investigators from the crime scene area, May 18, 2017, in New York.

Police in New York charged a man with murder after he allegedly drove his car onto a crowded side walk in New York City's Times Square and rammed a group of pedestrians, killing one woman and injuring more than 20 people.

Police identified the driver as 26-year-old U.S. citizen Richard Rojas, who has a history of arrests for driving while intoxicated. He also was charged with 20 counts of attempted murder and five counts of aggravated vehicular homicide.

Twenty-two people were injured in the incident, according to the New York Fire Department. Four of them were in critical condition, but none is likely to perish, New York Fire Commissioner Daniel Nigro told a press conference.

The woman Rojas allegedly killed was an 18-year-old tourist from Michigan. The girl's sister was among those injured.

No terror link

The incident does not appear to be linked to terrorism and is being investigated as an accident, according to New York City police, who are working with the FBI to investigate.

“Based on the info we have at this moment, there is no indication that this was an act of terrorism," New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio told a press conference. "That being said, we are reinforcing key locations around the city with our anti-terror units of the NYPD," he added.

Police said the red Honda sedan mounted the sidewalk and traveled for three blocks at high speeds before crashing into a security barrier.

Times Square, full of restaurants, shops and entertainment, is a popular tourist destination in New York City, attracting hundreds of thousands of pedestrians on a daily basis. It has long been seen as a target for a potential terrorist attack due to the large crowds, and that sensitivity has heightened after recent vehicular terror attacks in England, France and Germany.

President Donald Trump has been made aware of the situation and will continue to receive updates, according to White House press secretary Sean Spicer.

The Department of Homeland Security also stated that it is in close contact with law enforcement officials in New York City about the incident.

"The DHS National Operations center has been coordinating with the New York City Fusion Center to provide the Secretary and the White House updates. Local officials are investigating the cause of the incident," it said in a statement.

DUI history

Prior to being arrested Thursday, Rojas had been arrested two times for driving while intoxicated, once in 2008 and again in 2015, according to police. He initially tested negative for alcohol Thursday following the crash, the AP reports, but more detailed drug tests are still pending.

Rojas served in the U.S. Navy between 2011 and 2014, when he was discharged on a special court martial.

The apartment building where Rojas lives was cordoned off by police Thursday. He is expected to be arraigned on Friday, though it is unclear whether he has a lawyer.

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