Man's hit-and-run rampage after 'shooting girlfriend'

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A New Jersey man was facing multiple charges last night after a bizarre crime rampage.

It began when he allegedly shot his girlfriend, then twice drove stolen cars into the same neighbourhood of midtown Manhattan and proceeded to knocked down pedestrians.

There was shock in New York on Tuesday when a man drove his car into a group of people outside Macy's, a leading department store, injuring 19, none of them seriously.

But shock turned to bewilderment when the same thing happened at almost the same spot on Thursday morning. This time seven people were knocked over and one was critically injured.

Police say the same man, Ronald Popadich, 39, was responsible for both hit-and-run incidents and the shooting last weekend. He was arrested in the basement of his mother's house in a New Jersey suburb.

After bringing havoc to Midtown on Tuesday, Mr Popadich fled and evaded the police by running into an underground station. He repeated the vanishing trick on Thursday. Asked by police after his arrest why he returned to the neighbourhood 48 hours after his first hit-and-run, he reportedly replied: "I wanted to hurt more people."

One police official said: "He confessed to both hit-and-runs. He said he intentionally went back to the same area to hurt more people. The underlying motive is he hates people."

Gerard Caldwell, 31, who was one of the pedestrians knocked down, said: "It was a domino effect. He started hitting people and they kept falling and falling."

Police said Mr Popadich had stolen the car from its female owner at gunpoint in New Jersey a few hours earlier.

The shooting victim, Lisa Gotkin, 40, was described as Mr Popadich's girlfriend. She was found fighting for life in a desolate industrial park and taken to hospital. She remained in a critical condition last night.