May 24, 2017
By Gina Cherelus
NEW YORK (Reuters) – A grand jury has indicted the driver charged with killing a young woman and injuring 22 people when he careened through three blocks in New York City’s crowded Times Square, prosecutors said on Wednesday.
Richard Rojas, 26, is scheduled to be arraigned on the indictment on July 13.
Authorities say Rojas drove his Honda sedan down Seventh Avenue on May 18, made a U-turn and mowed down pedestrians on the packed sidewalk for three city blocks before crashing. Alyssa Elsman, an 18-year-old woman from Michigan, was killed.
The driver was subdued by onlookers and police as he tried to flee on foot.
The charges in the indictment were not immediately made public. Rojas, who did not appear at the Wednesday hearing, was previously charged with second-degree murder, vehicular homicide and multiple counts of attempted murder.
His defense lawyer, Enrico Demarco, declined to comment after the brief hearing.
Rojas, who served in the Navy, told the New York Post in a tearful jailhouse interview last week that he had unsuccessfully sought psychiatric care, and said he had no recollection of the incident.
He was believed to be under the influence of some intoxicating substance, a police source has told Reuters, while law enforcement officials told ABC News he was apparently high on synthetic marijuana.
Rojas has had numerous run-ins with the law over the past decade, according to Navy and public court records. He has had at least four prior arrests, two for drunken driving, and one earlier this month for allegedly threatening another man with a knife outside his apartment in New York City’s Bronx borough.
While serving in the Navy in 2013, he spent two months in a military jail in South Carolina, though records do not indicate why.
Of the 13 attack victims Bellevue Hospital received, nine have been released, the health provider said in a statement on Wednesday. One of the remaining patients is in critical condition, another is in serious condition and the other two are in fair or good shape, it said.
The last of six victims sent to Mount Sinai West and Mount Sinai St. Luke’s hospitals was released on Tuesday, a spokeswoman said.
(Additional reporting by Laila Kearney; editing by Jonathan Oatis and David Gregorio)
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