Austin, TX, United States (4E) – A drunken driver fleeing from police drove into a crowd at the South by Southwest (SXSW) festival in downtown Austin Thursday killing two people and injuring 23 others.
Police arrested the driver, 21-year-old Rashad Charjuan Owens of Killeen, and will charge him with two counts of capital murder and 23 counts of aggravated assault.
One fatality was identified as Dutch festival-goer and Amsterdam-based director Steven Craenmehr, who was riding a bicycle when he was hit by Owens’ car. The other fatality was a woman in a moped, according to Austin Police Department (APD) Chief Art Acevedo.
The injured victims, mostly in their 20s, were taken to the University Medical Center Brackenridge emergency department for treatment of internal injuries. Fifteen of the injured were released from the hospital Thursday while two in critical condition, three in serious condition and three with non-life-threatening injuries remained for treatment, according to James Shamard. chief of staff for Austin-Travis County EMS.
An APD officer tried to stop Owens at a gas station three blocks from the site of the 12:30 a.m. incident on suspicion he was driving drunk, but the latter drove off along Ninth Street and turned to the crowded Red River Street, where hundreds of pedestrians were in line for a concert at The Mohawk and just came out of another show at nearby Stubb’s.
Owens drove through a barricade nearly hitting a police officer, who jumped out of the way, before striking pedestrians and cars in Red River Street. Witnesses said victims were tossed into the air and knocked down.
The annual SXSW music, film and interactive festival draws thousands of people to downtown Austin’s Red River Street, where venues of the event are located.