The Bronx man who was charged with fatally mowing down a teenager and injuring more than a dozen others after he drove through Times Square crowds spoke out on Saturday, claiming he had no memory of the incident but asking for forgiveness for the carnage he caused.
In a Rikers Island interview posted Saturday on the website of the New York Post, Richard Rojas, an ex-Navyman, said he previously spoke to a mental-health professional at a local veterans center.
“I was trying to get help,” Rojas told the Post. “I wanted to fix my life. I wanted to get a girlfriend.”
Rojas, 26, who did not enter a plea in Manhattan criminal court on Friday to one count of second-degree murder, 20 counts of second-degree attempted murder and one count of aggravated vehicular homicide, admitted to smoking marijuana laced with PCP, according to the criminal complaint.
“The last thing I remember is driving my car,” Rojas told the Post, saying that he started his day eating a sandwich with his mother inside their Highbridge apartment. “Then I woke up at the precinct . . . I was terrified.”
Authorities said they believe Rojas had intended to kill people.
William Aubry, NYPD chief of Manhattan South detectives, said Rojas waited on Seventh Avenue and 42nd Street for traffic to pass, then made a right turn onto the sidewalk, striking 18-year-old Michigan tourist Alyssa Elsman between 42nd, and 43rd streets, and continuing to hit others. He later climbed out of the car and tried to run before being subdued.
“He waited for those cars to pass and he accelerated, striking down those pedestrians,” Aubry said on Friday. “That goes to the state of mind.”
Meanwhile, in the interview with the Post, Rojas expressed remorse.
“I just want to apologize to all the victims’ families,” he said. “I want to apologize to my mom.”
Elsman’s father, Thomas Elsman, whose other daughter is also being treated for injuries from the incident, told WNYW/Fox 5 he could have forgiven Rojas if it was unintentional.
“He can walk into traffic right now and I wouldn’t shed a tear,” the victim’s father said to WNYW/Fox 5. “Accidents happen but this guy knew what he was doing. Twelve million people in this city and he hits my daughter.”