A Planet Hollywood bouncer and a traffic agent jumped into action Thursday after a car plowed into pedestrians near Times Square, tackling the driver and holding him until police could respond, according to multiple reports.
“I saw a car driving down 7th Avenue on the sidewalk, and it was smoking,” Ken Bradix, who runs security at the Times Square Planet Hollywood, told WNYW. “(The driver) was screaming – no particular words – but he was screaming and flailing his arms in all kinds of directions.”
Police confirmed Thursday that police and civilians worked together to apprehend Richard Rojas, 26, a U.S. Navy veteran and Bronx resident.
NYPD police officers and civilians apprehended the driver. #TimesSquare— NYPD NEWS (@NYPDnews) May 18, 2017
Police said Rojas hopped his car onto a sidewalk near Times Square on Thursday and traveled three blocks, hitting 23 people before crashing. An 18-year-old tourist visiting from Michigan died in the crash. Her sister, 13, was also injured but authorities said she was expected to recover.
Rojas has a history of drunken-driving arrests. Friends told The New York Times he was dealing with growing paranoia. Law enforcement officials told The Associated Press that Rojas was hearing voices and expected to die.
Rojas tested negative for alcohol, but authorities told the AP detailed drug tests were ongoing.
Photographs emerged Thursday of Rojas appearing to shout near his wrecked car. He ran through the street before he was tackled, The AP reported.
“It was somewhat of a knee-jerk reaction,” Bradix told WNYW. “I did what any civic-minded person would do.”
Rojas was charged Thursday with murder, 20 counts of attempted murder and five counts of aggravated vehicular homicide. He remained jailed Friday.