A car jumped the sidewalk and mowed into a crowd near Times Square, shortly before noon on Thursday, killing an 18-year-old woman and injuring 22 people. At least four people sustained critical injuries, according to the FDNY.
According to the NYPD, driver made a U-turn before jumping the curb with his maroon Honda Accord near 42nd Street and Seventh Avenue. He drove at a “high rate of speed” down the sidewalk for almost three whole blocks before crashing into metal stanchions, near 45th Street and Broadway.
NYPD officials have identified the driver as Richard Rojas, a 26-year-old Bronx man and Navy vet. Rojas was brought into custody at the scene in a dramatic takedown, after traffic agents tackled the driver as he attempted to get away, officials said. Parole and patrol officers in the area — along with several bystanders — rushed in to subdue the suspect.
Law-enforcement officials said it appears that Rojas may have been intoxicated with drugs or alcohol. The suspect has a criminal record, including two prior DWI arrests, in Queens in 2008 and Manhattan in 2015, according to police officials. Rojas is now at a facility undergoing a drug and alcohol test.
NYPD officials and Mayor Bill de Blasio stressed during a press briefing that, at present, there is no evidence that the crash was terror-related. Yet the NYPD is stepping up its police presence at popular spots throughout the city as a precaution, and detectives and the Manhattan DA are carefully and quickly piecing together Rojas’s history, witness testimony, and footage from the scene to determine a motive, if any.
Officials said the one fatality was an 18-year-old woman, who was pronounced dead at the scene. Her 13-year-old sister was seriously wounded.
Pictures on social media captured the smoking, crumpled sedan, angled in the air atop the metal stanchions. Witnesses also reported pedestrians, apparently injured, sprawled on the street. “It happened so fast, it was a lot of smoke and fire, you couldn’t see nothing,” a witness told CBS 2. “It was a very big surprise; I was scared because I remember Paris and I was scared to get closer.”
Authorities have closed off many of the midtown streets in and around Times Square as the investigation continues. Though officials do not suspect terrorism, the images and initial accounts from the scene — unfolding in the bustling center of New York City — evoked the gruesome attacks in places such as Nice, Berlin, and, two months ago, London.
This post has been updated throughout.