Man formally charged with capital murder stemming from SXSW crash
AUSTIN, Texas (CNN) — A man who allegedly plowed into a crowded street at a popular festival in Austin, Texas, this week, killing two people and injuring dozens more, was formally charged with capital murder Thursday, local police said.
Rashad Charjuan Owens allegedly tore through the crowd while drunk, running over people and hitting other cars.
Police eventually caught Owens, 21, after an alleged foot chase, bringing him under control with a Taser.
His bond has been set at $3 million.
Authorities have not released names of the dead, but they were a Dutch man on a bicycle and a local woman on a moped, Austin Police Chief Art Acevedo said.
MassiveMusic, a music agency with offices around the world, posted a statement on its website and Facebook page identifying the company’s Amsterdam-based creative director, Steven Craenmehr, as a person killed Thursday in Austin.
“During the 8 years that Steven worked for MassiveMusic, we got to know him as an unstoppable force, full of life, love and laughter,” the Facebook post said. “This is an irreplaceable loss for the MassiveMusic family, and we are grateful for the years we spent with him. Our thoughts are with Steven’s family and friends.”
People were jamming the street listening to music just after midnight Wednesday when it is alleged that Owens, attempting to flee police, plowed through a barricade into the crowd.
Close calls for many
Some people escaped by a matter of inches.
Pablo Vazquez said the suspect drove right past him.
“The car barely missed me … I was less than a foot away,” Vazquez told CNN’s “New Day.”
“I saw some folks die.”
“It looked like something out of a movie,” said Russ Barone. “A few people lying on the street … with their friends around them trying to get them up, trying to get them back to life. Hopefully, they are.”
He said the scene was grisly, with people bleeding in the streets.
“I’ve never seen nothing like it. I felt like I was at a war or something,” Barone said. “I was down here for the music … we were having the best time ever. And then it turned into the worst thing I’ve ever seen.”
Twenty-three others were initially hospitalized, some with multiple internal injuries. Most of the victims are in their 20s, said Dr. Christopher Ziebell, medical director at the University Medical Center Brackenridge emergency department.
Ziebell said it was fortunate the incident occurred so close to the hospital, and he applauded the Travis County paramedics, who had just undergone training for a similar scenario, for their response.
Capital murder is Texas’ highest offense, punishable by the death penalty. The car hit pedestrians, a moped, a taxi, a bicycle and a van, Acevedo said.
Owens may also face multiple counts of aggravated assault by vehicle, Acevedo has said.
The incident began when an officer noticed a man driving in the wrong direction on a one-way street shortly after midnight.
A patrol officer attempted to stop the car near a crowded gas station, Acevedo said. The driver, the chief said, allegedly acted as if he was pulling over into the gas station, but he continued through the parking lot and exited, accelerating down the street.
The officer attempting to pull him over couldn’t follow him because the parking lot was so crowded, so he had to back out his patrol car, Acevedo said. Another officer working barricade control had to jump out of the driver’s way as the driver allegedly accelerated for about two blocks, striking pedestrians and vehicles, the chief said.
Photos and video posted to social media showed people sprawled on a street for about a block with first-responders kneeling over them. In one instance, paramedics are seen performing CPR.
Witnesses on a YouTube video said the car sped through the crowd, tossing some victims into the air and knocking others down.
Acevedo urged those posting videos on social media to turn them over to authorities instead.
South by Southwest is an annual event that features film, interactive and music festivals, and draws tens of thousands of people to the Texas capital every year.
In a statement on its website, SXSW organizers commended the first-responders and city agencies that assisted them and said their thoughts and prayer were with the victims and those affected.
“We will be making schedule and venue changes for programming in the surrounding area of last night’s events. All other programming will continue as previously scheduled.” the statement said.
CNN first learned of the incident via posts on Twitter.
By Josh Rubin and Faith Karimi
CNN’s Justin Lear, Eliott C. McLaughlin, Jason Hanna, Jessica Moskowitz, Ben Brumfield, Cristy Lenz and Maria White contributed to this report.