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The trial for the man accused of running down tourists in New York City’s Times Square, killing a woman and injuring 22 other people, will begin Monday in Manhattan following five years of delays.
Richard Rojas, 31, pleaded not guilty to the crime in 2017. His trial has been pushed back multiple times for various reasons, including coronavirus pandemic delays.
Rojas is accused of hitting and killing 18-year-old Alyssa Elsman from Portage, Michigan, while she was walking through Times Square during a family trip. Her teenage sister was among the 22 people injured. Prosecutors say Rojas drove on the sidewalk for three blocks before he crashed his car into protective barriers.
The U.S. Navy veteran reportedly told police after he was arrested that he had been smoking marijuana laced with the hallucinogenic drug PCP at the time. The National Drug Intelligence Center says PCP can cause a person to become delusional, violent or suicidal.
After Rojas was detained by police, he allegedly said he wanted to “kill them all.”
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Rojas has several prior criminal cases that paint a picture of a troubled man. He pleaded guilty to harassment after he was accused of pulling a knife on a notary in his home. He also has at least two previous drunk driving cases.
Rojas enlisted in the Navy in 2011 and served for part of 2012 aboard the USS Carney, a destroyer. Rojas spent his final months in the Navy at the Naval Air Station in Jacksonville, Florida.
In 2012, he was arrested and accused of beating a cab driver who he said had disrespected him by trying to charge too much, according to the arrest report. The arresting officer said Rojas screamed, “My life is over!” as he was being detained.
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After his arrest, Rojas told the officer that he was going to kill all police and military police he might see after his release from jail, the Jacksonville Sheriff’s Office report stated. The military stepped in to take jurisdiction over the case.
Rojas spent two months in a naval prison in Charleston, South Carolina, back in 2013, according to the Associated Press. He was discharged in 2014 as the result of a special court martial, a Navy official said.
Rojas’ trial is expected to take several months.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.