Photo Credit: DS Levi
OEM (Office of Emergency Management) Command Center trailer at scene of ramming in Times Square, New York

Authorities say the driver of a vehicle that rammed into pedestrians in New York City’s iconic Times Square at lunchtime Thursday was high on a dangerous synthetic form of marijuana called “K2” — also known by the street names “Spice” or “Mr. Nice Guy.”

New York City Mayor Bill DeBlasio told reporters Thursday the ramming that left one person dead and 22 people injured was “not connected to terrorism” but less than three hours later, an OEM (Office of Emergence Management) Command Center was on site, leading to speculation that more was involved.


The mayor said the event was believed to be “an isolated incident,” adding that the driver appeared to be intoxicated at the time of his arrest. He was identified as 26-year-old Richard Rojas of the Bronx, a Navy veteran with two prior DUI (driving under the influence) arrests. Rojas was caught on 45th Street, three blocks from where he had mowed down nearly two dozen pedestrians and taken into custody shortly after lunch time.

New York State Senator Brad Hoylman told reporter DS Levi in an exclusive interview following the news conference, “I think what we need to learn — what we have learned from the Israeli government is how to protect our pedestrians. I’m not saying that we haven’t been doing a good job; clearly we can do more, where this might not have happened.

“With all that said, you know, we can’t lock ourselves in a room and not enjoy our daily existence,” he added.

Asked whether he believes tourism to Times Square could be impacted by this incident, Hoylman shook his head.

“I don’t think so. I think nothing with stop tourists from taking a bite out of the Big Apple. We live in the safest big city in America.”

Hana Levi Julian contributed to this report.


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D.S. Levi is a news photographer and correspondent based in New York City.