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Police: Times Square driver accelerated as he hit pedestrians

Times Square crash

NEW YORK — Richard Rojas approached the busy intersection of West 42nd Street and 7th Ave. in New York City's Times Square a few minutes before noon Thursday and paused his maroon Honda Accord to allow cars to drive past before making a near complete U-turn onto the sidewalk, where he began to accelerate, according to police.

Deputy Chief William Aubry, the commander of Manhattan detectives, held a press conference Friday with new details on the fatal incident that left a teenage girl dead and spread fear through one of the most nation's most crowded and popular tourist destinations.

After his U-turn, police said Rojas continued to accelerate as he sped down the sidewalk for three full blocks, striking 21 pedestrians, one of whom died from her injuries.

A wrecked car sits in the intersection of 45th and Broadway in Times Square, on Thu., May 18, 2017 in New York City. Getty

"He waited for those cars to pass, and then he accelerated, striking those pedestrians, that goes to his state of mind," Aubry said.

Alyssa Elsman, 18, died after a man plowed through pedestrians with his car in New York's Times Square on May 18, 2017.

Alyssa Elsman, an 18-year-old visiting from Michigan, was killed. Her 13-year-old sister suffered a collapsed lung and broken pelvis, Aubry said.

In total, 19 of those injured were treated at hospitals. Three remain in critical condition and "one is very critical," Aubry said.

Rojas, a U.S. citizen, has had prior run-ins with police, including drunken driving incidents. On May 14, he was arrested for menacing.

Police sources told CBS New York that Rojas made rambling statements after being arrested. They also described him as emotionally disturbed. Rojas passed a breathalyzer test, but an initial test came up positive for PCP and marijuana. A source tells CBS News the suspect claimed to have heard voices, wanted to die, and did it for god.

Aubry said police are awaiting a full toxicology report.

Rojas, a 26-year-old from the Bronx, is facing multiple charges, including murder, attempted murder and aggravated vehicular homicide.

Richard Rojas is escorted from the 7th precinct by New York City Police officers after being processed in connection with the speeding vehicle that struck pedestrians on a sidewalk in Times Square in New York City, on Thu., May 18, 2017. Reuters
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