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Suspect in deadly Times Square mayhem charged with murder

19 May 2017

Rojas was arrested Thursday afternoon after he drove his vehicle for three blocks in Times Square, hitting almost two dozen people before steel security barriers finally stopped him.

Law enforcement officials say a man accused of steering his auto onto one of the busiest sidewalks in the US and mowing down pedestrians for three blocks told police he was "hearing voices".

The crash killed an 18-year-old woman, and the injured included her 13-year-old sister, police said.

Rojas tested positive for PCP and told police that God made him do it, a law enforcement source told CNN. "You stole my identity", Rojas told the man, grabbing his neck in one hand while brandishing the knife in the other, according to a police spokeswoman.

New York Police Department said 26-year-old Richard Rojas, of the Bronx, was charged with second-degree murder, 20 counts of attempted murder and aggravated vehicular homicide.

Before striking pedestrians, the auto was "out of control", an emergency management official said. Rojas remained in custody Thursday night.

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Consulate General of China in NY said in a statement that its officials had asked hospital authorities to provide injured pedestrians' information, adding that so far no Chinese nationals had been reportedly injured in the auto incident. A military judge sentenced him to three months confinement.

The incident evoked recent terrorist attacks by vehicle in London, Nice and Berlin but NY mayor Bill de Blasio said there was "no indication" it was an act of terrorism.

Before striking pedestrians, the 2009 Honda Accord was "out of control", an emergency management official said.

A smashed auto sits on the corner of Broadway and 45th Street in New York's Times Square after driving through a crowd of pedestrians Thursday, May 18, 2017.

Witnesses described a harrowing scene that started with screeching tires and ended with screams, chaos and a fiery crash at one of the world's most visited sites.

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.

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When Long went outside and looked in the direction the vehicle had gone, she saw at least six people lying on the ground, including a woman lying face-down with blood pouring from her head.

"We don't have anything in common except to say "hi, '" said Razak, who works as a hairdresser next door. I wanted to kill them".

"I felt so bad. standing there", not being able to do anything more to help, she said.

The streets in Times Square, a bustling tourist district, were thronged with tourists when the auto ploughed through the crowds. She watched the auto slam into a steel divider and catch fire, she said. "She said Rojas" family is Dominican and that his mother is a "sweetheart" who sometimes makes food or coffee for the beauty salon's workers. The auto leaned on a lamppost and steel barriers meant to block vehicles from getting onto the sidewalk.

Brandix has since been hailed a hero for helping to restrain the driver.

The car's windshield was shattered and flames billowed from the hood.

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"He ran out of the auto", Brandix told CNN affiliate WPIX.