Man Accused of 2017 Times Square Car-Ramming Rampage Was Hearing Voices – NBC New York

After Richard Rojas was kicked out of the Navy, he started sharing disturbing ideas that had been coursing by his head — that automobiles had been following him, that plane had been dusting him with chemical substances, that his meals had been poisoned.

An uncle, Ramon Reyes, stated Rojas provided a self-diagnosis: “You know that I’m crazy. And they’re not giving me the help that I need.”

Whether or not Rojas was right about his psychological situation is on the crux of a trial in New York, the place he mounted a sidewalk in his car in 2017 and mowed down pedestrians in Times Square.

A teen vacationer from Michigan died in entrance of her mom within the assault. Greater than 20 different individuals had been injured.

Rojas, 31, is preventing homicide, assault and different fees at a trial unfolding within the shadow of mass shootings across the country and the political debate during which gun-control opponents have sought guilty the violence on failures in psychological well being care.

On the outset, state Decide Daniel Conviser floated the likelihood of a paradoxical final result within the Rojas case: Jurors may discover Rojas responsible, whereas on the identical time deciding that he “lacked responsibility by reason of mental disease or defect.” The choose stated the discovering would qualify him for an open ended “involuntary mental commitment” as a substitute of a prolonged jail time period.

Prosecutors concede Rojas had some psychological challenges and {that a} motive for the assault shouldn’t be clear reduce. However additionally they argue that the defendant had led a largely regular life — serving within the navy, getting an actual property license, making associates — and that he doesn’t meet the madness normal wanted to clear him of accountability. They are saying he had a number of possibilities to cease his automobile on a bustling day in Times Square however ruthlessly stored going till he crashed.

“It was impossible for him not to know exactly what was happening,” prosecutor Alfred Peterson instructed the jury.

A prosecution case that ended late final month focused largely on harrowing accounts of victims who survived the carnage in Times Square. With the trial winding down, the protection has been attempting to counter in current days by drilling down on Rojas’ troubled previous to attempt to persuade the jury he was too sick to know what he was doing.

Relations, together with Reyes, have described the wave of paranoia from the witness stand.

A key protection witness has been Ziv Cohen, a psychiatrist on the college at Weill Cornell Medical School and at Columbia College, who identified Rojas as schizophrenic. Not like extra widespread psychological problems, schizophrenia is “a brain disease, so it’s a chemical imbalance in the brain” that made Rojas liable to hallucinations, Cohen testified.

Prosecutors say Richard Rojas, a U.S. Navy veteran, used his automobile as a weapon in Times Square and injured over 20 individuals, killing one younger vacationer. NBC New York’s Chris Glorioso studies.

Whereas within the Navy, Rojas started to listen to voices, the physician stated. Specifically, he was listening to from “James” — a “supernatural, God-like figure who had special information,” he testified.

On the day of the rampage, his imaginary information instructed Rojas he wanted to crash his automobile into “spirits” round him as a way to ship them to heaven and to launch Rojas “from the torture that he is experiencing as part of his psychosis,” he testified.

“At a certain point, the psychosis becomes so severe that he can’t control his behavior anymore,” he stated.

Relations testified about their despair over seeing Rojas disintegrate after he was discharged from the Navy in 2014 — the outcome of a courtroom martial stemming from an arrest for beating a cab driver.

A brother, Wilmer Veras, took the witness stand to recall how a delusional Rojas was obsessive about protecting tape over his cellphone and laptop computer digicam lenses in case he was being watched. When out on the earth, he would “look for things that weren’t there” and “say people were following him around.” He even accused Veras of “doing voodoo on him.”

At that time, “I told him he really needed to get help; that he was really losing it,” Veras stated.

The uncle, Ramon Reyes, recounted a cellphone name a number of days earlier than the Times Square crash during which Rojas requested for assist. Reyes instructed him to return by his residence the following day so he may take him to a health care provider, however “he never showed up,” he stated.

When a relative contacted Reyes saying she noticed a TV report about an arrest that had photographs of somebody who seemed like Rojas, the uncle started frantically calling his nephew hoping it wasn’t him, he testified. The uncle was requested if Rojas ever picked up.

“No,” the witness responded, then wept.

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