Skip to content

The jury determined on Wednesday that Richard Rojas, 31, should not be held responsible by reason of illness or mental defect and that he will not face a standard prison sentence for the charges against him, the district attorney’s office said.

Instead, the office said, he will be involuntarily committed to a mental institution determined by the judge.

Rojas, a Bronx resident who had served in the Navy, rammed his car into crowds of pedestrians in Manhattan’s busy Times Square neighborhood on May 18, 2017. He jumped the curb into the car on the west side of 7th Avenue at 42nd Street and barreled through three blocks before crashing at the northwest corner of 45th Street, police said at the time.

When he got out of the wrecked vehicle, witnesses at the scene tried to hold him back. At the time, he told a traffic cop, “I wanted to kill them all,” according to the criminal complaint.

Rojas tested positive for PCP and told police that God prompted him to do so, a police source told CNN at the time of the attack.
He has been charged with the murder of 18-year-old Alyssa Elsman, who was killed in the rampage, in addition to 20 counts of attempted murder, one count of aggravated driving homicide and a count of attempted second-degree murder, according to the criminal complaint. He pleaded not guilty.

Elsman’s mother questioned the jury’s decision after the verdict was announced.

“If this had happened to one of the juror’s children, would they still have said ‘not responsible’?” Jyll Elsman told CNN in a post Wednesday. “Do they feel safe living in the same neighborhood where Richard Rojas might be back on the streets?”

Alyssa was visiting the city from Portage, Michigan, with her family that day. Her younger sister Ava was seriously injured but survived the incident.

CNN has reached out to Rojas’ attorney for comment.

Shortly after the 2017 attack, city officials and law enforcement said they were investigating whether Rojas had a history of mental illness.

“We are now hearing from family members [that Rojas] had mental health issues dating back to childhood that … went unaddressed even while he was in the U.S. military,” New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio told WNYC radio the day after the event.

He had been arrested several times before the attack, including while in the Navy in Florida in 2013. At the time, he pleaded guilty before a military judge to drunk driving, failure to pay of just debt, drunken and disorderly conduct and communication. a threat.

Rojas remains in custody and the parties are expected to review the judge’s questioning order at a hearing on Thursday.

“We are grateful to the jury for their service. Our condolences always go out to the family, friends and loved ones of Alyssa Elsman, who suffered a terrible and tragic loss, and to all of the victims of this horrific incident. I thank the prosecutors, detectives, analysts and staff for their hard work and dedication to this lengthy case,” District Attorney Alvin Bragg said in a statement regarding the verdict.

CNN’s Elizabeth Wolfe contributed to this report.


Not all news on the site expresses the point of view of the site, but we transmit this news automatically and translate it through programmatic technology on the site and not from a human editor.