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Motorist crashes into crowd, killing 1 person, injuring 22

NEW YORK (AP) — A man accused of steering his car onto one of the busiest sidewalks in the U.S. and mowing down pedestrians for three blocks before a row of steel security barriers finally stopped him told police he was “hearing voices,” law enforcement officials said.

Police said 23 people were struck, including an 18-year-old tourist from Michigan who died.

The driver, Richard Rojas, a 26-year-old Bronx man who had been discharged from the U.S. Navy following disciplinary problems, told police he was hearing voices and expected to die, two law enforcement officials said.

After the wreck he emerged from his vehicle running, yelling and jumping before being subdued by police and bystanders in a chaotic scene.

“He began screaming, no particular words but just utter screaming. He was swinging his arms at the same time, said Ken Bradix, a security supervisor at a nearby Planet Hollywood restaurant who tackled Rojas.

Rojas initially tested negative for alcohol, but more detailed drug tests were pending, according to two law enforcement officials who were not authorized to speak publicly and spoke to The Associated Press on the condition of anonymity. The officials said Rojas told officers he had been hearing voices.

The carnage happened in a part of the city that has long been considered a possible terrorist target because of its large crowds, a concern that became elevated after the Sept. 11 attacks and compounded by recent attacks in England, France and Germany in which vehicles plowed through crowds of pedestrians.

Rojas’ motivation was unclear, but Democratic Mayor Bill de Blasio said there was “no indication that this was an act of terrorism.”

A week ago he was arrested and charged with pointing a knife at a notary, whom he accused of stealing his identity. He pleaded guilty to a harassment violation. In previous arrests, he told authorities he believed he was being harassed and followed, one of the law enforcement officials said.

Rojas was arrested on charges of driving while intoxicated in 2008 and 2015, police Commissioner James O’Neill said, losing his license for 90 days.

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