On March 13th, around 12:30 am, 2 people were killed and 23 were injured by a drunken driver at the SXSW music festival in Austin, Texas. The incident occurred when police tried to pull over a silver Toyota sedan at a gas station. The driver, Rashad Owens, sped off into traffic which initiated a high speed chase. He crashed through police barriers that were set up for the SXSW music festival and rammed through a crowd of attendees. Owens attempted to escape the chase on foot but the police shocked him with a stun gun and took him into custody. Witnesses and victims from that night recalled the events that happened and explained how they feared for their lives. Scott Jakota, a musician from Indiana who was preparing to perform at SXSW, told the Austin American-Statesman that he was one of the first people hit. He stated “The driver gunned the car. I was thrown up in the sky”. A visitor from Los Angeles, Ally Hulton, stated “I was on a balcony of my friend’s apartment when I saw the car driving at full speed before hitting someone. About 10 bodies went flying”. A female passenger on a moped and a bicyclist from the Netherlands were killed. Their names have not been released at this time.
Chief Police Officer, Art Acevedo, told news correspondents that he believed Owens was well aware of his actions and intended to commit the crime without any worry about the consequences. Acevedo felt Owens knew he would injure innocent people but cared more about evading the police instead. Acevedo stated “But understand something, when somebody acts intentionally, it’s very difficult to stop. You have a car here. You have a police officer that was forced to jump out of the way”. Christopher Ziebell, the emergency department director at the University Medical Center-Brackenridge, stated “The most critical patients I have a great deal of concern for. 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”.
Even though the incident caused a horrible turn of events, the SXSW managing director Rolanda Swenson announced that the festival will continue. However, the schedule and venue locations have been changed. Acevedo stated “We do these events very well, but you cannot stop a person who rather than face drunk driving charges decides to speed at a high rate of speed, go around a uniformed officer forcing him to run out of the way, then at a high rate of speed show total disregard for the sanctity of human life”. Owens has been booked and charges will be filed this afternoon.