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Man who ran over pedestrians was 'hearing voices'

19 May 2017

A man has been charged after a woman was killed by a auto that plowed through at least 22 people Thursday in Times Square.

Police identified the woman killed as 18-year-old Alyssa Elsman, who was on holiday with her family from Portage, Michigan.

An 18-year-old woman was killed and at least 22 people were injured, city officials said.

Rojas told police he was "hearing voices", law enforcement officials said.

On Thursday at around 11.55am, United States navy veteran Richard Rojas is alleged to have driven a Honda sedan onto the pavement at 45th street towards Times Square, hitting pedestrians before crashing into steel security barriers.

The vehicle collided with a metal pole and came to a stop at 45th Street and Broadway, police said.

Asked if the man had said anything, he said: "He was just screaming". "He just kept going".

Initial reports brought to mind vehicle attacks on pedestrians, such as those in recent months in Britain, France, Germany, Israel and Sweden.

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"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.

Media reports say a ticket agent and a worker at Planet Hollywood restaurant were among the people who helped police subdue and detain Mr Rojas.

The US Navy veteran initially tested negative for alcohol, but more detailed drug tests were pending, according to two law enforcement officials who were not authorised to speak publicly and spoke on the condition of anonymity. "Local officials are investigating the cause of the incident", it said in a statement. Faisal Shahzad, a naturalized American and Taliban-trained militant, later pleaded guilty and was sentenced to life imprisonment.

Rojas has been arrested twice in New York - in 2015 and 2008 - for drunken driving, New York Police Commissioner James O'Neill said.

Rojas had been arrested at least four times before for offenses including drunk driving and threatening someone with a knife, according to police officials and public records.

Navy records show Rojas enlisted in September 2011 and was based in IL and Florida, working as an electrician's mate fireman apprentice. In 2012 he served aboard the U.S.S.

Navy records also show he spent two months at a naval brig in Charleston, South Carolina, in 2013. They do not indicate why. Details of the circumstances were not immediately available.

"People were being hit and rolling off the vehicle", said Josh Duboff, who works at the nearby Thomson Reuters headquarters.

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A woman who used to live in the building, Fati Razak, said she occasionally sees Rojas when she returns to visit her mother.

Rojas' motivation was unclear but a troubled history has emerged that saw him discharged from the US Navy over disciplinary problems in 2014, following three years of service as an electrician's mate fireman apprentice.

Elizabeth Long, of Dayton, Ohio, told CNN she was walking to the Hard Rock Cafe when she saw a maroon auto heading toward her on the sidewalk. Many sidewalks are lined with barricades and planters to deter vehicle attacks.

Another witness, who would only identify himself as Andrew, said the driver was "aiming for as many people as he could possibly get".

President Donald Trump "has been made aware of the situation in Times Square and will continue to receive updates", his spokesman Sean Spicer said.

Sunita Prasad and her family, visiting from Guyana, were marveling at the sights when the auto came toward them.

Patsy Sciutto, who works in Times Square, said she was meeting someone for lunch when an announcement came over a loudspeaker that the building was on lockdown because of an incident outside.

She pushed her children, 3 and 6, out of its path.

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This story has been corrected to show that Elsman graduated from Portage Central High School, not Portage Northern High School.