A Navy veteran who plowed into a crowded Times Square sidewalk—killing a teenage girl and wounding more than a dozen others—suggested a voice in his head made him do it, jurors heard at the driver’s Manhattan murder trial Monday.
Richard Rojas, 31, muttered several disturbing comments to himself at Midtown South Precinct after police arrested him for the horrificMay 18, 2017, rampage that killed Massachusetts 18-year-old Alyssa Elsman and injured 21 others, NYPD Officer Gerard Collins testified.
“You guys were supposed to shoot me,” a handcuffed Rojas said aloud to himself in the cell, Collins said in Manhattan Supreme Court.
“It wasn’t me. Something came over me,” Rojas later added.
Rojas has pleaded insanity. Enrico DeMarco told jurors his client, who enlisted in the Navy in 2011 and was discharged in 2014, does not deny the allegations but has schizophrenia and was wholly unaware of his actions’ moral or legal implications.
Collins told jurors responding officers initially thought there’d been a terrorist attack when the radio call came over, reporting Rojas was striking pedestrians on the pathway. He and his patrol partner planned to intercept the trail of destruction with an NYPD cruiser.
Collins said when the police arrived on 45th St and Seventh Ave., several civilians had already subdued Rojas, holding him down by his arms.
“He was drenched in sweat, breathing heavily,” the officer tested, adding that witnesses were screaming and yelling at Rojas. “It was a hectic situation. We just needed him off the stage.”
During his testimony, Collins identified the ripped black t-shirt Rojas wore during the attack. Five years ago, the Daily News interviewed the CitySightseeing ticket agent who ripped the shirt off Rojas when he helped others restrain him after the attacks.
“We watch TV all the time,” Alpha Balde said in 2017. “You have to make sure this guy doesn’t have anything under his shirt that’s going to damage you. So I ripped the shirt to find out no gun, no knife, no belt.”
The frantic scene Collins recounted played out after grisly images from CCTV were shown to jurors last week.
Graphic footage of the carnage shot from multiple angles showed the terrifying moment Rojas careened onto the sidewalk after making a sharp U-turn on 42nd St and Seventh Ave.
Piercing screams can be heard on the videos showing Rojas drive north at full speed, knocking pedestrians down like bowling pins and flinging others into the air with his maroon Honda Accord.
Rojas kept going even as a body clung to his windshield, video shows. The deadly fury came to a halt when Rojas struck a bollard on 45th St., flipping his car on his head.
If convicted, Rojas faces life in prison.