Christopher Beekharry, his wife Sunita Prasad and their two children, ages 3 and 6, were visiting from the South American CARICOM nation of Guyana and touring Times Square, New York with their uncle on Thursday, May 18 when they saw a auto racing towards them on the side walk. Rojas's lawyer and weeping supporters had no comment.
Rojas was arrested on scene after he was driving speedily to strike dozens of pedestrians in New York City's Times Square on Thursday, killing one and injuring 22 more.
Prosecutors today said Rojas "brutally murdered an 18-year-old woman and severely injured her 13-year-old sister who were here on vacation".
Richard Rojas, 26, is charged with second-degree murder, aggravated vehicular homicide and multiple counts of attempted murder. Law enforcement sources said they believe he had smoked synthetic marijuana (K2) prior to the crash - causing him to be extremely impaired.
Rojas served in the Navy between 2011 and 2014 before being court martialed, the Associated Press reported.
Police say 18-year-old Alyssa Elsman was killed. Navy records show that in 2013 he spent two months at a naval prison in Charleston, S.C. They don't indicate why. Rojas is a US citizen and served in the Navy from 2011 to 2014, most recently at Naval Air Station Jacksonville in Florida.
"What we know right now continues to confirm it was not an act of terror", Mayor Bill de Blasio told WNYC public radio on Friday.
Protective bollards - short, sturdy posts to prevent vehicles from driving onto sidewalks - were installed late last year, just in time for the New Year's Eve celebration that regularly brings a million or more people to Times Square to watch the famous Waterford crystal ball drop at the stroke of midnight. After his arrest, he told police he was "hearing voices" and expected to die, two law enforcement officials said.
The Michigan family said that Elsman, her 13-year-old sister and their mother were walking through crowded tourist attraction a little before noon.
Rojas was remanded to custody today and will return to court on May 24.
18-year-old Alyssa Elsman was killed when a speeding auto slammed into pedestrians in Times Square on May 18.
Police say a man steered his auto onto a sidewalk running through the heart of Times Square mowing down pedestrians for three blocks.
"He didn't stop", said Asa Lowe, of Brooklyn, who was standing outside a store when he saw people scatter. According to officials, four of the injured are in critical condition.
Alan Ceballos, an attorney who represented Rojas in that case, said the state charges were dropped after the military stepped in to take jurisdiction over the criminal case.