Alleged drunk driver could face capital murder charge for SXSW crash

March 13, 2014 at 3:10 PM
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AUSTIN, Texas, March 13 (UPI) -- A young man was trying to evade a DUI checkpoint when he plowed into a crowd at an Austin, Texas, music festival Thursday, killing two people, police said.

The crash in the small hours at the South by Southwest festival killed a woman passenger on a scooter and a Dutch cyclist, the Austin American-Statesman reported. At least 23 people were injured, with five reportedly critical.

Police identified the driver as Rashad Charjuan Owens, 21. Police Chief Art Acevedo said he will face charges including capital murder and aggravated assault.

Investigators say Owens was drunk when he turned onto a street that had been closed to traffic for the festival while trying to avoid a DUI checkpoint.

Owens has a history of arrests and was convicted in Fairbanks, Alaska, for driving under the influence and in Killeen, Texas, to trespass.

His grandmother told the American-Statesman in a phone interview from her home in South Carolina that Owens has a young son and had been trying to provide for the boy.

"He is good. He is so good," she said. "Whatever happened was out of his control, I am sure."

Austin Mayor Lee Leffingwell expressed condolences in a statement, saying. "Our thoughts and prayers are with the families of the victims, as well as those being treated in area hospitals. The Austin Police department is investigating this matter as allegedly involving drunk driving. If this is true, this fact angers me. Drunk driving is never acceptable, and can lead to deadly consequences."

Scott Jakota, a musician from Indiana who was playing at a SXSW venue, said he was among the first people hit.

He said the American-Statesman the driver "gunned" the car "and I was thrown up in the sky."

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