Suspect in SXSW crash accelerated as he approached crowd

Posted Friday, Mar. 14, 2014  comments  Print Reprints
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The drunken-driving suspect accused of killing two people when his car crashed through a street barricade at the South by Southwest festival early Thursday did not use his brakes and even accelerated as he approached crowds, according to an arrest warrant released Friday.

Rashad Charjuan Owens, 21, of Killeen appeared before a judge, who set bail at $3 million. He faces a capital murder charge.

Austin Police Chief Art Acevedo has said Owens intentionally steered toward pedestrians in the hope of escaping from an officer who was trying to pull him over. Acevedo has suggested that Owens could be charged with up to 23 counts of aggravated assault with a vehicle.

Owens’ blood-alcohol content was 0.114, exceeding the legal limit of 0.08, the arrest warrant said.

Jamie Ranae West, 27 of Austin and Steven Craenmehr, 35, of the Netherlands were killed.

Two Fort Worth teenagers were among nine people still hospitalized Friday. Curtisha Davis, 18, was listed in good condition, but her boyfriend, Deandre Tatum, 19, was in critical condition. Both were being treated at University Medical Center Brackenridge, a hospital spokeswoman said.

Davis is a senior at Trimble Tech High School in Fort Worth. Tatum graduated last year.

One other patient is in critical condition, another is in serious condition, another is in fair condition, and one other is in good condition. St. David’s HealthCare hospital had three victims in fair condition.

Police say most of the 23 injured people were treated and released.

According to the arrest warrant, Owens told police that he “got scared” when he saw police lights behind him about 12:30 a.m. Thursday because outstanding warrants meant he could go to prison for five years. Owens told police that he’s facing kidnapping warrants issued as part of a custody dispute over his daughter.

The officer who tried to stop Owens was looking for suspected drunken drivers when he spotted a gray 2012 Honda Civic that didn’t have its headlights on. Owens made a turn from a middle lane and “would have caused a crash” with the police cruiser had the officer not turned, according to the warrant.

Investigators said Owens cut through a gas station and sped the wrong way down a one-way street before crashing through police barriers blocking Red River Street, which was closed to traffic for South by Southwest, forcing another police officer manning the roadblock to dive out of the way.

Owens then plowed into a crowd of concertgoers, police said. Investigators said he eventually crashed into a taxi and a parked van and tried to run before police subdued him with a stun gun.

The warrant said a video from the police unit giving chase “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.”

Owens drove “for almost three city blocks, accelerating into crowds and does not use his brakes, as in the video there are no brake lights visible from the rear of the Honda,” the warrant said

Owens’ brother, Lamar Wilson, told the Austin American-Statesman that Owens was in town to perform at an east Austin venue. Owens, who lives in Killeen and raps under the name KillingAllBeatz or K.A.B254, had been drinking and didn’t know the streets of Austin, Wilson said.

Court records indicate that Owens pleaded guilty to driving under the influence in Fairbanks, Alaska, in October 2011, when he was 19. He was also charged with leaving the scene of an accident, but that was dismissed.

In 2012, Owens faced charges of criminal mischief in Alaska, and a warrant was issued after he failed to appear in court.

In 2010, Killeen school district police arrested him for criminal trespassing, and he pleaded guilty.

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