Navy veteran faces 20 counts of attempted murder for crash a popular NYC tourist at popular NYC area
The driver of a vehicle that tore through crowds in the heart of New York City, killing one and injuring 22 others, pleaded not guilty Thursday, according to prosecutors.
Richard Rojas, a U.S. navy veteran, was charged with second-degree murder, 20 counts of attempted murder, and five counts of aggravated vehicular homicide.
According to court records, after the attack in May, Rojas yelled, he wanted to “kill them all”. The death and destruction came after he smoked marijuana laced with PCP and he did not expect to survive. He expected police to kill him.
"It's a terrible thing that happened," Rojas' attorney, Enrico Demarco, told reporters after his client’s appearance. "But how we handle this type of a case will determine how civilized of a society we are.”
Following his arrest shortly after the crash, Rojas was transported to a testing facility to determine whether he had drugs or alcohol in his system. He was arrested twice before for driving while intoxicated.
Law enforcement sources told local media Rojas tested negative for alcohol but positive for drugs, with some reports suggesting he was under the influence of a dissociative -- causing feelings of detachment from reality -- a drug known as PCP.
Officials were quick to dismiss the possibility of a terrorist attack, describing the tragedy as an isolated incident.
Rojas is scheduled to court in October.