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Transcript: Mayor de Blasio, Police Commissioner O'Neill, Fire Commissioner Nigro Hold Media Availability in Times Square

May 18, 2017

Video available at:

Mayor Bill de Blasio: I want to give you an update. We had a very serious incident today here in Times Square. We’re going to provide you with information. I want to emphasize upfront – this is preliminary information. Obviously, investigation underway. There’s a lot we will learn in the coming hours, but we’re going to give you the information we have at this point. I’ll start, then you’ll hear from our Police Commissioner James O’Neill, and our Fire Commissioner Dan Nigro.

So far what we know – 23 individuals were injured in this incident. And that includes tragically one young woman who has passed away. The perpetrator is in custody. He is a United States citizen and a former member of the armed forces with the United States Navy. He has a criminal history. Commissioner will go over that in a moment.

Based on the information we have at this moment, there is no indication that this was an act of terror. I want to clarify again – based on the information we have at this moment, there is no indication that this was an act of terrorism.

That being said, we are reinforcing key locations around the city with our anti-terror units of the NYPD. So out of an abundance of caution, major sites in this city will get additional police coverage from our anti-terror units.

We all feel deeply right now for those who were injured and for their families, and particularly for the family of the young woman who was lost. Our prayers are with her family and with all those who right now are suffering because of this horrible incident. 

I want to thank all of our first responders. The perpetrator was apprehended very quickly. And I want to thank all of the first responders who immediately came to the scene to aid the wounded. And you’ll get an update on the status of those who were affected from the Fire Commissioner.

This is a tough day for New York City. But as usual, the people of New York City will stand firm, will be resilient. We have tremendous faith in our first responders who handled this situation so quickly. And we will provide regular updates as more information emerges.

Now I’ll present our Police Commissioner James O’Neill.


Police Commissioner James O’Neill: Alright ready to roll, we’re good? Alright, thank you.

Alright, so as the Mayor said, this is preliminary information. This incident happened about an hour-and-a-half ago, so it's all subject to change. And this is what we talk about at every press conference – we try to get as much information out to you as possible, as soon as possible.

So at approximately 11:55 A.M., a 2009 Honda Accord passenger vehicle mounted the sidewalk on the west side of Seventh Avenue and West 42nd Street in Times Square. The vehicle, occupied by a male driver, proceeded to drive at a high rate of speed along the sidewalk from 42nd Street to 45th Street, striking a number of pedestrians along the way. The Honda eventually came to a stop on the northwest corner of West 45th Street, where it collided with a metal stanchion.

Along the route, the subject’s vehicle struck 23 pedestrians, causing multiple injuries and one fatality. Twenty-two victims were removed to local hospitals.

The driver, a 26-year-old male, identified as Richard Rojas, a resident of the Bronx, was taken into custody at the scene. Preliminary investigation reveals that Rojas has a few arrests, and two of them are for DWI. Detectives are currently reviewing any other criminal history for the subject. Further investigation is ongoing.

At this point, as the Mayor said, there is no indication that this incident was terrorism related.

Now Commissioner Nigro will talk about the injuries.

Fire Commissioner Daniel Nigro: Thank you, and I’ll talk about the injuries in general terms as we do. We’re not going to talk about names or specific injuries.

We did have one person who was pronounced at the scene.

There were four critical patients removed: two to Bellevue, two to Roosevelt with very traumatic injuries including open fractures, including multiple traumas. None of those at this point, thanks to the fact that they were quickly transported to this hospital, is likely. But that doesn’t mean they are cleared. None of those four are right now likely to perish, conditions can change.
We’re very hopeful that the fact they were treated here quickly and removed quickly, that they will survive.

Three other injuries were very serious, but not critical, they were also removed to local hospitals.

Fifteen are less serious injuries – we call green tag injuries – all of these people have now been transported to the hospitals, are being treated. [Inaudible] divulge any names, or ages, or where they come from at this point.

But there was a very large amount of Fire Department, Police Department, and emergency services arriving here very quickly, and thanks to that, people received care in a very timely fashion.

Mayor: Alright, let’s take questions. In the back, yes?

Question: [Inaudible]

Commissioner O’Neill: There were a number of people involved in the apprehension. There were some civilians involved, but there were also members of the New York City Police Department involved in the apprehension also.

Question: [Inaudible]

Commissioner O’Neill: We were – we have as you know, being from New York, have a tremendous amount of police coverage in Times Square. As a matter of fact, right on the corner of 43rd and Seventh, we had a lieutenant from CRC and some police officers.

One at a time.

Question: [Inaudible]

Commissioner O’Neill: Hold on, hold on.

Question: [Inaudible]

Commissioner O’Neill: Speak up.

Question: [Inaudible]

Commissioner O’Neill: The vehicle – at this time, we don’t think the vehicle was being pursued by a police vehicle.


Question: [Inaudible]

Commissioner O’Neill: David, as you know, the NYPD constantly reassesses security throughout the city. And after an incident like this, we’ll do that also.

Mr. Mayor.

Mayor: Yes, I would just add – there has been a very substantial increase in the number of police officers who patrol Times Square over the last few years. Obviously, as part of our creation of a greater anti-terror force, the Critical Response Command. In addition, other measures have been put in place. As Commissioner said – we will continue to update those measures as each situation warrants.

Commissioner O’Neill: Magee, Magee?

Question: [Inaudible]

Commissioner O’Neill: It’s right between – it looks like it’s between 42 and 43, Magee. On Seventh Avenue. On the sidewalk.

Question: [Inaudible]

Commissioner O’Neill: I’m not sure about that. I can’t give you that.

Question: [Inaudible]

Commissioner O’Neill: No, we’ll give you that – we’re not ready to do that yet, okay.


Question: [Inaudible]

Commissioner O’Neill: He’s in the process of being tested as we speak. And he’s being interviewed by the New York City Police Detectives also.

Question: [Inaudible]

Commissioner O’Neill: I can’t say that with any degree of certainty right now.

Right behind?

Question: [Inaudible]

Commissioner O’Neill: You got to speak up.

Question: [Inaudible]

Commissioner O’Neill: Yes, it looks like, yes – that’s where he mounted the sidewalk – at 42 and Seven, half-a-block away from here. Up to 45 Street.


Question: [Inaudible]

Commissioner O’Neill: We’re in the process of reviewing all the video right now.

Question: [Inaudible]

Commissioner O’Neill: We’re in the process of interviewing him right now. Again, this only happened an hour-and-a-half ago.


Question: [Inaudible]

Commissioner O’Neill: No, of course the worst went through my mind. And that’s why the Mayor and I came here as quickly as we could. I spoke to Chief Aubry. He is the Detective Chief in Manhattan South, and we quickly determined that at this time, it doesn’t appear to be terrorist related.

Mayor: And Marcia, same thing exactly. Obviously, we know the times we’re living in, Marcia, and we know it’s a dangerous moment in history. I also had – the second I heard it was Times Square, I knew that there was a tremendous police presence.

But as we’ve learned more, again, there’s no indication this was terror.

Go ahead.

Question: [Inaudible]

Mayor: Again, I think that’s a different discussion than the crisis we’re talking about right now. It is – we’re talking about this right now.

Go ahead. Go ahead.

Question: [Inaudible]

Mayor: Look, my response is the same as it’s been any time there’s been an incident anywhere in the world. We continue to go about our lives as New Yorkers. Now, thank God, based on what we know now, there is no indication that this was an act of terror. But for anyone who’s concerned, my message is always the same – this is the safest big city in America, that’s been proven many times over. 36,000 police officers protecting people. Even when some incidents occur, it should not change people’s fundamental knowledge that they are safe and the NYPD protects them.

Commissioner O’Neill: Hold on one second.

Mayor: Yes, please.

Commissioner O’Neill: Before I take any more questions, I’m going to let Chief Aubry kind of walk through the chronology of what just transpired in Times Square. Okay, Bill?

Chief of Manhattan South Detectives William Aubry: So I just want to reiterate as the Mayor and the Police Commissioner had said – there is no indication at this point that this has anything to do with terrorism.

I’m going to take you through the facts that we know an hour-and-a-half into this incident.

11:54 A.M., Mr. Richard Rojas – he’s a 26-year-old male, he’s traveling southbound on Seventh Avenue. As he approaches 42nd Street, he makes a quick U-turn on to the west side street – west side sidewalk of Seventh Avenue and 42nd Street. He proceeds on that west side sidewalk for three-and-a-half blocks, where he hits a stanchion.

Between 42nd and 43rd Street, there’s an 18-year-old female that was struck, and she now is dead. Her 13-year-old sister was also struck, and she’s been treated at a hospital.

Upwards of over 20 other people were injured between 42nd Street and 45th Street on that west side sidewalk.

When he hits the stanchion on the west side sidewalk, there’s a traffic agent that ends up tackling him. That’s traffic agent [inaudible]. There’s also a parole officer, and there’s also patrol cops that are there that assist with apprehending him. They get him in a patrol car, they bring him back to Midtown South precinct. He makes certain statements, which I’m not getting into.

Currently, right now he’s being transported to a testing facility where Highway will test him for drugs and alcohol. As the Commissioner had said, he has a previous background – arrest history. In 2008, he was arrested in Queens for drinking and driving. And also in 2015, he was arrested in Manhattan for drinking and driving His last recent arrest was in May of this year, and that was for menacing.

And again, you know we’re working with the Manhattan District Attorney’s office, we’re working with witnesses. We’re looking at video to try to piece the facts together here. 

But at this point, there is no indication that there is terrorism involved.

We have detectives at his home. We have detectives canvassing for video. We have detectives speaking with witnesses. And again, so far, it looks like we’re getting down to the facts as they come about.

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