A pall continued over the SXSW music festival in Austin, Texas in the wake of the fatal accident early Thursday morning when suspect Rashad Owens drove into a crowd, killing two and injuring 23. Eight victims remain in hospital, and two are in critical condition.
Police said on Friday Owens will be charged with capital murder -- in other words, the death penalty -- for the accident which occurred when the 21-year-old -- whose blood alcohol later tested at .114, over the legal limit of .08 -- tried to evade a drunk driving checkpoint.
Owens, who it was reported had other warrants out for his arrest, tried to evade the police following him and made a wrong turn down a one-way road, crashing through a barricade, forcing a police officer to jump out of the way, before accelerating into a crowd. Steven Craenmehr, 35, of Holland, and local Jamie West, 27, were both killed.
Court records indicate Owens pleaded guilty to driving under the influence in Fairbanks, Alaska, in October 2011, when he was 19.
Owens also faced 2012 charges in Alaska of criminal mischief, and a warrant was issued for him after he failed to appear in court. In 2010, he was arrested by Killeen Independent School District police for criminal trespassing and pleaded guilty.
Killeen is about 70 miles north of Austin.
CNN interviewed SXSW witness Russ Barone who said, "It looked like something out of a movie. 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.
"I've never seen nothing like it. I felt like I was at a war or something. 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."
The aspiring rapper's brother, Lamar, told the Austin-American Statesman that he last saw Owens on Wednesday evening before his 1 a.m. show at Club 1808. According to this relative, Owens, who raps under the name KillingAllBeatz or K.A.B254, had been drinking and did not know the streets of Austin, TX well.
“I can't grasp it. I can’t believe it,” Wilson told the Statesman. “Everything was going good. We were just there trying to perform, and it made a whole other turn."
SXSW managing director Roland Swenson spoke about the accident before the Lady Gaga keynote, saying "In that horror there was also greatness, in that so many people responded immediately. First responders were there within minutes and undoubtedly saved people." He also mentioned that a SXSW employee had just moved the line to see rapper Tyler the Creator from the closed-off street to the sidewalk, which undoubtedly saved many lives.
SXSW has set up a relief fund for victims at SXSWcares.com and offered counselling from Red Cross.
Every Austin, TX venue held a minute of silence on Friday night at midnight to pay tribute to the victims. A candlelight vigil will be held at 7pm local time Saturday night at 9th and Red River, across the street from The Mohawk, where the accident occurred. Owens' bail is currently set at $3 million.