AUSTIN (KXAN) – Rashad Charjuan Owens, 21, the driver in a deadly downtown wreck who police suspected of driving drunk, was charged with capital murder after the car he was driving plowed through a crowded street full of people waiting for a South by Southwest concert.
An Austin woman riding on the back of a moped and a man from the Netherlands on a bicycle were killed when the car hit a crowd of people outside Mohawk. More than 20 others were taken to the hospital.
The Travis County Medical Examiner’s Office said 27-year-old Jamie West of Austin was killed after Owens’ car slammed into a moped she was riding on.
According to a post on MassiveMusic.com, one of the victim’s was 35-year-old Steven Craenmehr. “This is an irreplaceable loss for the MassiveMusic family and we are grateful for the years we spent with him,” the statement said. Craenmehr was on a bicycle at the time of the crash.
Two people remained in critical condition, and three others had serious injuries and were being treated at area hospitals, Austin-Travis County EMS Chief of Staff James Shamard said.
Police say Owens sped away from an officer after being stopped on suspicion of DWI a few blocks earlier.
Owens almost hit a police officer with the car while trying to get away, according to police. He then went the wrong way on Ninth Street, plowed through a barricade on Red River Street, and hit the people in the crowd.
“This is an individual that committed an intentional act,” Austin Police Chief Art Acevedo said of the suspect.
Owens then went through the intersection at 10th Street before crashing into Craenmehr and West at the intersection of Red River and 11th Street. He also struck a taxi and drove onto a curb and into a parking lot before hitting a van.
That’s when police say Owens jumped out of the car and began to run. An officer in pursuit managed to use a Taser and arrested the suspect.
“An individual that’s willing to drive down a street mowing people down is either going to crash through a barricade or go around a barricade,” Acevedo said. “The bottom line is when somebody is acting intentionally – and this is a person that was trying to get away – it’s very difficult to stop.”
Owens had previously been charged with DUI and leaving the scene of a 2011 incident in Alaska. He was also arrested in Bell County, Texas in 2012.
Mohawk canceled all its events Wednesday night, and officials also evacuated Cheer Up Charlie’s. Other events at Mohawk were also called off on Thursday.
Austin resident Kirk Visser, 47, lives across the street from Mohawk nightclub, where the bands X and TEEN had just wrapped up when the crash happened and rapper Tyler the Creator was scheduled to perform at 1 a.m.
Visser was watching TV when he heard the crash, and said he thought the nightclub’s outdoor balcony had collapsed, so he stepped outside on his second-floor balcony.
“As soon as I stepped out, I knew I had heard metal on a body,” he said. “There were people everywhere running and screaming.”
“SXSW is a long time event, 27 years,” said Austin Mayor Lee Leffingwell. “This is the first time in those 27 years that we’ve had an incident of this kind.”
SXSW organizers and Austin police also asked Cheer Up Charlie’s to call off Thursday’s scheduled ‘Death and Taxes East End‘ event. They event was still looking for a new venue. Cheer Up Charlie’s planned to reopen at 4 p.m.
Police have set up a specific number for people to call if they have pictures, video or information about this situation.
Police posted on Facebook, “If you witnessed, have video/photos of the incident @ Red River call (512) 974-5186. Do not tie this line up for any other reason.”
If you need to get in touch with a loved one who may have been affected by the SXSW crash or if you need to let people know that you are OK, the Red Cross has activated a registration page online.
In-Depth: Survivors hospitalized
Following the crash, 23 people survived and went to area hospitals. Two people remained in critical condition and three others had serious injuries, according to Austin-Travis County EMS officials. Three others were being treated for injuries that were not life threatening, and 15 others had been treated and released.
“The most critical patients I have a great deal of concern for,” said Dr. Christopher Ziebell, the emergency department director at the University Medical Center-Brackenridge said. “We are going to do our best for them, but these are some of the worst injuries that we see and not everybody with these kinds of injuries is going to survive.”
Officials explained why they used different hospitals early Thursday morning, saying that any time there is a “mass casualty incident” they reach out to area hospitals to see what the different emergency rooms can handle.
“We train for the MCI (mass casualty type of events), we have pre-plans for every big event like this,” ATCEMS Chief of Staff James Shamard said. “When the crews show up midday for SXSW, we not only review the plan on how we’re going to manage the typical patients, but we’re going to review how a mass casualty situation like this should it occur.”
All critical patients headed to UMCB, since it is closest and is a certified Level 1 Trauma Center.
Anyone looking for information on the people involved can call the hospitals.
- St. David’s Medical Center 512-476-7111
- St. David’s South Austin Medical Center 512-447-2211
- University Medical Center Brackenridge main number 512-324-7000.
Information from the Associated Press was used in this report.