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Times Square killer driver is US Navy vet with drinking problem

NEW YORK: The driver of the car that smashed through New York City's Times Square on Thursday, killing a teenager and injuring 22, was a US Navy veteran who had been arrested at least four times for offences including drink driving and threatening someone with a knife.

Richard Rojas, 26, plowed into people on the sidewalk in his burgundy Honda car and sped three blocks before crashing into a metal pole, police said.

According to Reuters, he said after being arrested: "You were supposed to shoot me! I wanted to kill them."

Rojas returned from his Navy service with a drinking problem and had posted "crazy stuff" on social media, said a friend, Mr Harrison Ramos, speaking to Reuters at the Bronx apartment building where Rojas lives.

"Don't make him out to be a terrorist or something," Mr Ramos said. "He served his country and when he came back, nobody helped him.

"He went through a real tough time," Mr Ramos said, adding that he had lost contact with Rojas.

"That's my friend. I care about him, and it hurts."

A week ago, Rojas was arrested at his apartment for threatening another man with a knife.

He pleaded guilty to harassment, a violation, and was not sentenced to any prison time.

Rojas was also charged with drink driving in 2008 and 2015.

For the Times Square incident, Rojas was charged with one count of murder in the second degree, aggravated vehicular homicide and multiple counts of attempted murder, a police spokesman said on Thursday. - REUTERS

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