US veteran charged over deadly Times Square crash

US teenager Alyssa Elsman was killed in the tragedy

Alyssa Elsman, an 18-year-old tourist from Portage, Michigan, was killed and her 13-year-old sister is among the 22 people injured.

Alyssa Elsman died Thursday when a man drove his vehicle down the sidewalk for three blocks into the heart of New York City's theater district.

The man accused of steering his auto onto a Times Square sidewalk Thursday and mowing down pedestrians told police he was "hearing voices", law enforcement, officials said.

Investigators look under a smashed vehicle that sits on the corner of Broadway and 45th Street in New York's Times Square after ploughing through a crowd of pedestrians at lunchtime on Thursday, May 18, 2017.

New York Police Department said 26-year-old Richard Rojas, of the Bronx, was charged with second-degree murder, 20 counts of attempted murder and aggravated vehicular homicide.

Richard Rojas, the driver accused of plowing his vehicle against a crowd in Times Square on Thursday, has been charged this morning with one count of second degree murder, 20 counts of attempted murder and 5 counts of aggravated vehicular homicide. They say he was captured at the scene and arrested.

Pedestrians had little time to react as the auto went the wrong way up the pavement before smashing into a row of steel security barriers installed in recent years to prevent vehicle attacks on the square. Police have identified the victim as Alyssa Elsman, a 2016 graduate of Portage Central High School, near Kalamazoo.

Friend Harrison Ramos said Mr Rojas wasn't the same when he came back from active duty in 2014. He told the police he was hearing voices and wanted to kill himself.

New York Mayor Bill de Blasio told WNYC Radio Friday that Rojas had "demonstrated mental health issues going back to childhood" that "went unaddressed even during the time he was in the U.S. military".

The picture that quickly emerged of Rojas from neighbors and authorities was of a man with problems. It is being investigated as an accident, a police official said. He pleaded guilty last week to harassment in the Bronx after he was accused of pulling a knife on a notary in his home.

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Rojas has been arrested twice in New York - in 2015 and 2008 - for drunken driving, New York Police Commissioner James O'Neill said. He did not enter a plea, and his lawyer later declined comment.

Rojas enlisted in 2011 and was an electrician's mate fireman apprentice.

During this time, he had told police he was being harassed and followed. In 2012 he served aboard the U.S.S.

Navy records show that in 2013 he spent two months at a naval brig in Charleston, South Carolina. They do not indicate why. Details were not immediately available.

Officials say he had served in the US Navy but was discharged following disciplinary problems.

Thursday's mayhem began at noon on a hot, clear day that brought large crowds of people into the streets to enjoy the good weather.

"I was just doing something that I hope people would do, because I was trying to do the right thing", he said.

She graduated a year ago from Portage Central High School.

"Alyssa was the type of person who seemed very shy and reserved when you first met her, but once you started talking to her you realized she was smart, amusing and engaging", principal Eric Alburtus said in a statement.

Annette Proehl, of Pennsylvania, was in Times Square with children on a field trip when she heard the screeching tires of the vehicle and people screaming. "But if you could talk to her for a minute, you'd realize she was engaging".

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