By Will Weissert
The Associated Press
AUSTIN, Texas — Fleeing police, a driver gunned a grey Honda Civic through a street barricade and into a crowd of South By Southwest festival attendees early Thursday, killing two people, injuring 23 others and casting a pall over one of the nation’s hippest celebrations of music, movies and technology.
The driver struck multiple pedestrians around 12:30 a.m. on a block filled with concertgoers, then sped down the street, hitting and killing a man from the Netherlands on a bicycle and an Austin woman on a moped, Austin Police Chief Art Acevedo said. The driver eventually crashed into a parked van and tried to flee on foot before police used a stun gun to subdue him.
Rashad Charjuan Owens, 21, will face two counts of capital murder and 23 counts of aggravated assault with a vehicle, Austin police said Thursday afternoon in a statement. Formal charges are still pending. The statement did not provide a city of residence.
Police said the incident started when an officer on a drunken-driving patrol tried to stop a vehicle. Acevedo indicated the suspect was drunk, but drunken driving was not among the charges police said Owens would face. Acevedo said investigators have obtained blood samples and were testing them.
Public records obtained by The Associated Press show that Owens had a previous conviction in Alaska for drunken driving and one in Texas for criminal trespassing.
Acevedo said he believed Owens was so intent on evading the police that he drove into the crowd.
“The bottom line is, when somebody’s acting intentionally, and this is a person that was trying to get away, it’s very difficult to stop,” Acevedo said. “It’s clear for me from his actions ... that this is an individual who showed no regard for the human beings that he plowed through in his attempt to get away.”
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