Rashad Owens charged with capital murder in deadly SXSW crash

AUSTIN (KXAN) — Rashad Owens, 21, has been charged with capital murder after being accused of killing three people and hurting 22 others when the car he was driving plowed through barricades and into a crowd full of people waiting for a South by Southwest show.

The 21-year-old from Killeen, about 70 miles north of Austin, remains in police custody after a district court judge set his bail at $3 million. Jail records did not list an attorney for him.

After being treated and released for minor injuries sustained in the crash, Owens agreed to a breath test and it showed his blood-alcohol content as .114, according an arrest affidavit. The legal limit in Texas in .08.

The officer who tried to stop Owens was looking for suspected drunken drivers when he spotted a 2012 gray Honda Civic that didn’t have its headlights turned on, the arrest warrant says. The officer then initiated the traffic stop after Owens made a turn out of a wrong lane, nearly colliding with a police cruiser, the warrant said.

By that time, Owens was in the southbound lanes of the Interstate 35 frontage road near Ninth Street. Owens pulled the car he was driving into a Shell gas station but then continued on, driving the wrong way on Ninth Street, the affidavit said.

Owens told officers he saw the lights in his mirror and got scared because he had warrants out for his arrest and did not want to go to jail, the document said. Owens said he had a kidnapping warrant and told police he was in a custody battle over his daughter, the warrant said.

After driving the wrong way down Ninth Street, Owens rammed through a barricade at Red River Street set up to divide SXSW crowds and traffic, forcing another police officer manning the roadblock to dive out of the way.

While reviewing video of the crash, police say Owens accelerated into crowds of people for nearly three blocks along Red River Street and did not hit his brakes, the document said.

The warrant says video “shows the Honda accelerating into crowds, not simply crowded areas but crowds of people who are hit by the car and flung into the air.”

At the intersection of 11th and Red River, Owens’ car slammed into a cyclist, a motorcycle and a taxi. Police say he continued on, driving onto a sidewalk and into a parking lot where it struck a van. Owens then ran from the vehicle, according to the affidavit.

An Austin police officer was able to catch up to Owens and used a stun gun on Owens to stop the pursuit and arrest him, the warrant said.

View the interactive map below for a detailed account of Thursday morning’s events.

Jamie West, 27, of Austin, was killed when the car Owens was driving struck the motorcycle she was riding on with her husband. Steven Craenmehr, 35, of the Netherlands was also killed. He was riding a bicycle when the car crashed into him. Craenmehr was in Austin for SXSW.

Sandy Le died days later from injuries she sustained in the crash.

Owens pleaded guilty in November 2011 to intoxicated driving after a hit-and-run incident in Alaska. Records show Owens was charged with misdemeanor DWI and leaving the scene of an accident after an incident Oct. 17, 2011, in Fairbanks. The prosecution dismissed the second charge at the time.

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, meanwhile, he was arrested in Texas by Killeen Independent School District police for criminal trespassing and pleaded guilty.

There is a long legal road ahead for the Owens. KXAN Legal Analyst Mindy Montford took a deeper look at why he faces two counts of capital murder.

See what she had to say:

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