Driver Who Crashed Car Into Times Square Crowd Likely To Use Insanity Defense

“I was trying to get help," said Rojas in an interview.

By Eric Shorey

On May 18, 2017, Richard Rojas drove his car into a crowd in the Times Square area of New York City. Now, lawyers are indicating that Rojas may be gearing up for an insanity defense.

According to the New York Daily News, Rojas did not appear in court on Monday for a short conference about the case. Attorney Enrico Demarco has filed an official notice that will eventually allow him to proceed with the case on the premise that Rojas was not in his right mind at the time of the incident. Prosecutors will move forward by searching for mental health experts to evaluate Rojas. The date for those evaluations has not yet been determined.

Rojas had injured 20 and killed one when his vehicle plowed through the busy tourist area.

“They were screaming, yelling, running,” said Sharief White, a witness at the time. “It was running over everybody that was in front of the car.”

Police later determined that Rojas had been under the influence of PCP and had been attempting to commit suicide by cop. 

In a New York Post interview, Rojas attempted to explain his motivation, saying he barely remembered the attack at all: “I was trying to get help ... The last thing I remember is driving in my car. Then, I woke up in the precinct. I was terrified ... I can’t believe it. I’m 26-years-old.”

Rojas was officially charged with two counts of second degree murder, 18 attempted murders and 38 assaults.

The attack was not deemed a terroristic incident. Police at the time noted the culprit's disturbed mental state: “He’s just rambling and saying crazy stuff,” said one official. “He tried to fight the police.”

Friends noted that Rojas' mental health began deteriorating after his service in the Navy: “He thought that everybody had control over him,” said friend Hansel Guerrero. “They were trying to control his life and things he wanted to do in life.”

“As is alleged in the indictment, this defendant put the lives of each person who had the misfortune to cross his path in danger,” Cyrus R. Vance Jr., the Manhattan district attorney, said in a statement at the time. “My heart goes out to the victims, many of whom are in various states of recovery, and their families.”

[Photo: Getty Images]

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