Five square blocks of one of the busiest shopping districts in New York City were closed Thursday after a car plowed along a stretch of Seventh Avenue sidewalk, injuring 22 pedestrians and killing one.
Emergency vehicles were on the scene shortly after noon and the New York Police Department later identified the driver as Richard Rojas, a 26-year-old Bronx man who reportedly has a record of driving while intoxicated.
Rojas’ car was stopped after running into sidewalk bollards on the corner of 45th Street and Broadway. His car first drove up on the sidewalk at 42nd Street and Seventh Avenue, according to police at the scene.
Rojas was taken into custody. During a press conference two hours after the incident, New York City Police Commissioner James O’Neil said terrorism was not thought to be a motive.
“There’s no indication this incident was terrorism related,” O’Neil said.
The person killed is reportedly an 18-year-old woman who was visiting the area with family. She was pronounced dead at the scene. The injured were taken to local hospitals.
Gap, Express, American Eagle, Ann Taylor Loft, H&M and Forever 21 and other shops in the Times Square area were closed off to vehicle and pedestrian traffic after the incident.
Many of the stores appeared to be empty, but police said no formal evacuations were ordered.
Police were unsure how long the area would be closed, but said it was being treated as a crime scene.
A witness who identified himself as Fransisco and said he was visiting the area was on the opposite side of Seventh Avenue when he turned in response to screams behind him to see a car driving on the sidewalk.
“It was a disaster,” he said.
He added that police were on the scene “quickly.”
A representative of Thomson Reuters, which is headquartered in Times Square about a block away from where the car ultimately came to a stop, said the building’s emergency plan, essentially a lockdown, went into effect shortly after noon.
Other buildings and shops, including Skechers, Sephora, Aldo and Champs Sporting Goods, in the Times Square area did not close in the hours immediately after the incident, despite police tape and barriers making it difficult or impossible for shoppers to enter.
Associates of Skechers and Sephora said they’d received no directives from the police to close or evacuate.
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