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Bronx man who plowed SUV into Times Square crowd, killing girl, 18, is found ‘not responsible’

The man who killed 18-year-old Alyssa Elsman and injured 22 other pedestrians after plowing through a crowd in Times Square in 2017 has not been found guilty of his crime by reason of insanity.

Richard Rojas, who suffers from schizophrenia, 31, learned of his fate on June 22. He committed his atrocity on May 18, 2017.

Rojas, a U.S. Navy veteran who hails from The Bronx, pleaded not guilty to second-degree murder, 18 counts of attempted murder and 38 assaults.

The jury deliberated for six hours in the case. Judge Daniel Conviser said Rojas will undergo further psychiatric evaluation before being sentenced to an institution. He could have been in prison for life.

The several-week trial revolved around Rojas’ mental state at the time of the horrific incident.

Avoiding jail time because of mental health problems is extremely rare in the United States. Often, suspects are found to be mentally ill, yet forced to undergo regular criminal trial.

The several-week trial revolved around Rojas' mental state at the time of the horrific incident

The several-week trial revolved around Rojas’ mental state at the time of the horrific incident

18-year-old Alyssa Elsman was on vacation in New York City at the time of her death

18-year-old Alyssa Elsman was on vacation in New York City at the time of her death

Alyssa Elsman, 18 (front left) pictured with her family in Times Square.  Elsman was killed when Rojas ran over her

Alyssa Elsman, 18 (front left) pictured with her family in Times Square. Elsman was killed when Rojas ran over her

While his lawyers said he “lost his mind,” prosecutors said the suspect was aware he was in a populated area when he drove into the crowd.

At trial, Rojas’ brother, Wilmer Varas, testified that the killer began to develop mental health problems at age 11, fifteen years before the Times Square attack at age 26.

Varas said that Rojas would speak in tongues and complained that he heard voices in his head.

After the attack, Rojas told a traffic cop, “I wanted to kill them all.”

Another startling testimony at the trial came from Alyssa Elsman’s younger sister, who told the jury of her horror at seeing her sister die.

One of Rojas’ victims, Jessica Williams, was cutting school at the time of his rage. Williams was “essentially cut in half” by his car.

Richard Rojas, 31, learned of his fate on June 22

Richard Rojas, 31, learned of his fate on June 22

An analysis of the attack by de Rojas and his victims from the New York City District Attorney's office.  Rojas killed an 18-year-old girl and injured 22 others in the attack

An analysis of the attack by de Rojas and his victims from the New York City District Attorney’s office. Rojas killed an 18-year-old girl and injured 22 others in the attack

Prosecutors say that on May 18, 2017, Rojas drove his car from the Bronx, where he lived with his mother, through Times Square, then turned a corner.

He then steered his car up the sidewalk and roared three blocks back up the sidewalk before crashing his car into protective barriers.

Photographers captured photos of a ferocious Rojas after he climbed out of the wrecked car and ran down the street, waving his arms.

At the time, after his arrest, the US Navy veteran told police that he had smoked marijuana with the hallucinogenic drug PCP before the incident, authorities said.

In 2012, he was arrested and charged with beating a taxi driver who he said had disrespected him by overcharging, according to the arrest report. The arresting officer said that Rojas yelled, “My life is over!” while he was being held. After his arrest, Rojas told the officer that he was going to kill any police and military police he would see after his release from prison, the Jacksonville Sheriff’s report said.

Alan Ceballos, a lawyer who represented Rojas in that case, said the state charges were dropped after the military intervened to take jurisdiction over the criminal case.

Naval records show that in 2013, Rojas spent two months in a naval prison in Charleston, South Carolina. He was fired in 2014 as a result of a special court martial, a naval official said.

Rojas enlisted in the Navy in 2011 and served aboard the USS Carney, a destroyer, for part of 2012. Rojas spent his last months in the Navy at the Naval Air Station in Jacksonville, Florida.

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