Navy veteran who ran over 22 in Times Square found “not responsible” due to mental illness

A car driven by Richard Rojas is visible on the corner of 45th St. and Broadway after the vehicle struck at least 14 pedestrians on a sidewalk in New York City's Times Square, killing one person and seriously injuring another on Thursday, May 18, 2017, in Manhattan.

Molly Crane-Newman

New York Daily News


A Navy veteran who drove his car into Times Square pedestrians in 2017 was “not responsible” due to mental illness for the attack that killed an 18-year-old tourist and injured 22 others, a jury found Wednesday.

Richard Rojas, 31, was found “not responsible by reason of mental defect” of second-degree murder and 23 other counts for the May 2017 carnage. The Bronx man who suffers from schizophrenia will be involuntarily admitted to a psychiatric facility.

Rojas was taken back into custody following the verdict. Justice Daniel Conviser said Rojas will undergo a psychiatric examination before being institutionalized.

The jury only deliberated for about one day before reaching its verdict.

Rojas’ lawyers had argued he “lost his mind” behind the wheel of his Honda Accord, plowing the car through three blocks of crowded Times Square sidewalks on May 18, 2017. The jury heard from a Weill-Cornell psychiatrist who said Rojas’ psychosis had affected his ability to perceive reality.

Killed in the bloodshed was 18-year-old tourist from Michigan, Alyssa Elsman, whose little sister testified about watching her die.

Maimed was New Jersey teen Jessica Williams, who was playing hooky with a friend when she was “basically cut in half” by Rojas’ car, Assistant District Attorney Alfred Peterson said during opening arguments.

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