Times Square Attacker Richard Rojas: Friends Recall His Descent From Ambitious Youth To Troubled Navy Veteran

Times Square attacker Richard Rojas entered the Navy in 2011 as a young man full of hope and ambition. But as friends related in a new report, the man who plowed his car into a crowd of people at Times Square in New York and ended up killing a teenage girl had returned from his military stint as a completely different person, someone who seemed to have lost touch with reality.

On Thursday morning, pedestrians on the sidewalks of Times Square were running for their lives, as a car driven by an apparently crazed motorist had recklessly careened into them. Following the rampage, which killed 18-year-old Michigan resident Alyssa Elsman and injured at least 20 others, police arrested the car’s driver, a 26-year-old man named Richard Rojas, who, according to NBC New York, claimed that he was acting on the commands of “demons in his head” who told him to hurt people. Currently, there is no evidence that the crash was related to terrorism.

A report from the Inquisitr noted that after the crash, Rojas had tested positive for K2, the street name for a variant of synthetic marijuana. The Times Square attacker’s friends were also questioned by local authorities, describing a man who was seemingly “cheerful” in the days leading up to the incident, but with a long pattern of erratic behavior, dating back to the time he returned from the Navy a few years ago. Since leaving the military, Rojas had reportedly had trouble finding a job, and was prone to “bad nightmares” and “talking crazy,” said one of his friends.

What were the circumstances that turned Richard Rojas into the so-called “Times Square Attacker”? A new report from the New York Times shed more light on the possible circumstances earlier today, touching on his youth growing up in the Bronx, and how he had some big plans in life prior to entering the Navy in 2011.

Citing his friend Hansel Guerrero, the New York Times report stated that young Richard Rojas had a normal childhood growing up in the Bronx, spending his time in auto shops and working on people’s cars, and riding his bicycle around town. Richard also had some big ambitions, such as living in his own apartment, finishing his college education, and starting up a clothing business. He would then join the Navy in 2011, “eager to leave the Bronx,” as Guerrero put it.

“He wanted really badly to be in the Navy,” Guerrero told the New York Times.

“To him it was a journey out of New York life. He was exploring.”

U.S. Navy records show that Richard Rojas was moved to a naval air station in Jacksonville in 2012, and would spend six months aboard the USS Carney. Guerrero claims that his childhood friend was very happy and excited at receiving a promotion in the Navy. But that all changed in September 2012, approximately one month after he returned to Jacksonville.


At that time, Rojas was arrested outside Naval Station Mayport for attacking a cab driver and resisting arrest. Richard had allegedly been drinking when he was arrested, telling officers that his “life was over” and threatening to “kill all police and military police” he would encounter after his release from prison.

While the disposition of the 2012 case was described by the Times as being unclear, the future Times Square attacker was dishonorably discharged from the Navy in May 2014, having reached the rank of electrician’s mate fireman apprentice. Navy officials, per policy, declined to discuss the reason for his discharge.

According to Guerrero, Rojas’ life began to spin out of control after his discharge, as he began to accuse the government of impeding his progress in the military. Rojas reportedly would cook up conspiracy theories, feeling that taxes, parking tickets, and police stops were all means the U.S. government used to control him. He had even turned against the Navy, seeing his training as a “deception that harmed recruits.”

Rojas would then rack up multiple arrests in the years that followed, including a driving while intoxicated arrest in April 2015, where he had to complete a drunken driving prevention program.

[Image by Drew Angerer/Getty Images]

Months before gaining infamy as the Times Square attacker, Richard Rojas told Guerrero that he felt police officers were picking on him, discriminating against a person’s age and skin color. That, said Guerrero, was the last time he had spoken to his childhood friend.

Rojas’ friend Harrison Ramos added that Richard began drinking regularly and had become “increasingly anxious and isolated” after leaving the Navy.

“People go and they serve their country and they come back crazy and nobody helps them. He seemed a little lost in the world.”

As documented by the Inquisitr and other publications, Richard Rojas had allegedly attacked a man at his mother’s apartment, accusing him of trying to steal his identity, just one week before the Times Square attack. But he was otherwise acting normal around that same time, said another friend, Alex Ayala, who had seen Richard “sitting on the old block,” not hinting at any sign of what would happen on Thursday morning at Times Square.

[Featured Image by Drew Angerer/Getty Images]

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