Richard Rojas appeared in court on Friday May 19, 2017./Pool Photo)
NEW YORK (FOX5NY) - A Times Square motorist accused of steering his car onto one of the busiest sidewalks in the U.S. and mowing down pedestrians has been charged with murder and 20 counts of attempted murder, police say. An 18-year-old tourist from Michigan died at the scene.
The New York Police Department said Richard Rojas, 26, of the Bronx, was charged late Thursday also with five counts of aggravated vehicular homicide.
Rojas is accused of allegedly running down almost two dozen people in Times Square. Detectives searched for clues that can help them figure out what the motive was behind the tragedy. Crime scene tape blocked the entrance of the home as detectives searched it.
Police sources said he told cops he was hearing voices. Rojas is a U.S. citizen and served in the Navy from 2011 to 2014, most recently at Naval Air Station Jacksonville in Florida.
His neighbors on Walton Avenue were stunned. Harrison Ramos, a close friend, said Rojas had been going through a rough time ever since he returned home from serving in the Navy. Ramos said Rojas "didn't come back normal."
Authorities said the former member of the armed forces has a criminal record, including two prior arrests for driving while intoxicated. One of those arrests was last year.
Harrison said Rojas didn't drink before he joined the Navy but came back with a drinking problem.
Last week, Rojas was reportedly arrested for allegedly pointing a knife at a notary and accusing him stealing his identity.
A police report says a man accused of mowing down a crowd of Times Square pedestrians with his car, killing one of them, once told police in Florida he wanted to kill officers.
Richard Rojas enlisted in the Navy in 2011. In 2012, he was accused of beating a cab driver in Jacksonville, Florida, at a naval station.
According to the arrest report, Rojas said the cabbie had disrespected him by trying to charge too much.
The report says Rojas told an officer he was going to kill all police and military police he might see after his release from jail.
The U.S. military took over the case.
A Navy official says records show he was discharged in 2014 as the result of a special court martial.
Rojas' lawyer didn't comment Friday.