A US military veteran with a criminal past ploughed a vehicle into a crowd of people in New York's Times Square, killing one woman and injuring 22 other people.

Witnesses said the motorist mounted the pavement in a burgundy Honda sedan on Thursday and sped along for more than three city blocks, knocking people over before the car hit a pole and came to rest at 45th Street and Broadway in Midtown Manhattan.

Police who took the driver into custody identified him as Richard Rojas, 26, of the New York City borough of the Bronx.

They said he had been arrested twice for driving under the influence in 2008 and 2015, and once earlier this month for menacing.

The city's mayor said there was no indication it was an act of "terrorism".

New York Mayor Bill de Blasio said the man had served in the navy.

Officials said Rojas was arrested in 2008 and 2015 for driving under the influence, and in 2016 for menacing in different areas of New York.

The incident caused instant jitters after recent deadly car-ramming attacks in London, Berlin and the French city of Nice.

Hundreds of thousands of people, many of them tourists from around the world, pass through the bustling commercial area daily.

Navy records show Rojas spent two months in a military prison in Charleston, South Carolina, in the summer of 2013 but do not specify why.

He left the service in May 2014, according to records, which do not offer any additional details.

Al Jazeera's Gabriel Elizondo, reporting from New York, said law-enforcement officials were at the scene and talking to eyewitnesses to gather as much information as possible.

"This was an incredibly scary moment, happening right in the heart of Times Square where hundreds, if not thousands, of tourists were mixing with the local workers during lunch time," he said.

Witnesses said the motorist mounted the pavement and sped along for more than three city blocks, knocking people over before the car hit a pole [AFP]
The driver of the maroon vehicle was taken into custody [Reuters]

Source: Al Jazeera and news agencies