Friday, 28 July, 2017

Driver charged with murder in Times Square crash

Francis Olson | 19 May, 2017, 19:48

A speeding red sedan struck pedestrians on a sidewalk in New York City's Times Square yesterday, killing at least one person.

Speaking to reporters Thursday afternoon, Mayor Bill de Blasio said the crash was not an act of terror.

City authorities were nevertheless deploying extra police from anti-terror units to key locations around the USA financial and cultural capital, home to 8.5 million, out of "an abundance of caution", the mayor said.

The driver, a U.S. navy veteran named as Richard Rojas, was arrested at the scene and breathalysed. Television footage showed police officers restraining a man in a dark T-shirt and placing him in a police vehicle.

A witness told Reuters that seven people were placed on stretchers at the scene, where loose shoes were scattered.

One person was covered by a blood-drenched blanket, the witness said.

NYC Health + Hospitals Bellevue said it was treating four patients in critical condition and two in serious condition Thursday night.

The speeding auto jumped the sidewalk on the west side of 7th Avenue at 42nd Street and barreled into pedestrians for three blocks before crashing at the northwest corner of 45th Street, police said.

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Twenty-three people were struck by the vehicle before it was stopped by a security barrier. "He went into the sidewalk and a lot of people were hit down after that".

Police said he has a history of drink-driving, and is being tested to determine whether he was driving while intoxicated.

Rojas has been charged with one count of murder in the second-degree, aggravated vehicular homicide and multiple counts of attempted murder, a NY police spokesman said in an email to Reuters news agency late on Thursday.

Rojas reportedly told police during his previous arrests that he felt he was being harassed and followed.

O'Neill said civilians and police had been involved in apprehending Rojas, but declined to give any more details.

Police said he drove his vehicle for three blocks in Times Square, hitting almost two dozen people, before steel security barriers finally stopped him. The crash happened near 44th Street and Seventh Avenue, at the heart of Times Square near Broadway just before noon on Thursday.

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 NY authorities confirmed the death.

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