Her 13-year-old sister was with her at the time, and was injured in the incident.
Times Square, typically one of the busiest areas of New York City, was completely blocked off to the public on Thursday afternoon following the crash.
Officials say 18-year-old Alyssa Elsman was visiting New York City from MI and was with her younger sister at the time of the tragic crash.
Rojas was arrested on charges of driving while intoxicated in 2008 and 2015, police Commissioner James O'Neill said, losing his license for 90 days. "I wanted to kill them", law enforcement sources quoted the accused as telling police following his arrest, the BBC wrote.
After the wreck he emerged from his vehicle running, shouting and jumping before being subdued by police and bystanders in a chaotic scene.
"He began screaming, no particular words but just utter screaming".
Alyssa Elsman, from Portage, Michigan, died and 23 people were struck by the auto before it was stopped by a security barrier.
Rojas who had attempted to flee the scene of the crime was contained before being taken into custody where he was believed to be undergoing a slew of drink and drug tests.More news: Mutiny in Ivory Coast
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The carnage raised immediate fears of terrorism, fuddled by recent attacks in England, France and Germany in which vehicles ploughed through crowds of pedestrians. It was not immediately clear if he has entered a plea or retained an attorney.
Harrison Ramos, one of Rojas' neighbours, told the AP that the navy veteran was going through "a real tough time" after coming back from duty in 2014. He pleaded guilty to a harassment violation.
James O'Neill, the NY police commissioner, said Rojas "proceeded to drive at a high rate of speed along the sidewalk from 42nd street to 45th street".
O'Neill identified the suspect as 26-year-old Richard Rojas, describing him as a US citizen and former service member with multiple previous DWI arrests.
Rojas, who according to Navy record was enlisted in September 2011, has been embroiled in several legal cases in the past. He's a US citizen and a Naval veteran.
Rojas spent his final months in the Navy at the Naval Air Station in Jacksonville, Florida, before being discharged in 2014 as the result of a special court martial, a Navy official said. Police identified the woman as Alyssa Elsman, a resident of Portage, Michigan.
She graduated from Portage Central High School.
'She would always text me back as quick as she could and when I didn't hear from her or her friend I knew something terrible happened, ' said West. "When you first got to know her, you would perceive that she was shy or quiet".