Tragic Car Crash Overnight at #SXSW (UPDATE 4:00pm Central)

See ongoing updates at bottom of post.

Two people are dead and eight people remain hospitalized this morning after an attempted drunk-driving stop turned into a horrific three-block long crash on one of the busiest streets in Austin, Texas during the SXSW music festival.

The crash occurred along Red River Street beginning at about 12:30am. The driver of the stolen vehicle, whose name has not yet been released, will face capital murder charges.

According to statements given by Austin Police Chief Art Acevedo and other officials in a press conference this morning, the incident began when a police officer doing routine DUI stops attempted to stop a Gray Honda Civic on the southbound frontage road of Interstate Highway 35 where it runs through the eastern end of downtown Austin. The driver signaled as if he was going to turn into a Shell gas station at the corner of the southbound frontage road and 9th Street, but then turned to accelerate through the parking lot. He drove the wrong way down 9th Street, which is a one way street, before crashing through a temporary barricade on Red River one block west.

After nearly hitting a police officer at the barricade, the driver encountered the thick crowds of pedestrians and cyclists in the closed off festival streets. The first injuries were reported near The Mohawk, a night club where popular group X were just finishing a set. But the car just kept driving and plowing through people until crashing on a curb three blocks away. The driver then attempted to flee before police brought him down with a taser. The entire incident took less than 2 minutes, according to city officials.

One of the dead is a local Austin woman riding with a man on a Moped, who was brought to the hospital in stable condition. The other deceased was Steven Craenmehr, a Dutch employee of Massive Music, who was struck on his bicycle. A total of 23 people were transported to area hospitals, with 2 described as remaining in critical condition, 3 in surgery or serious condition, and another 3 still hospitalized but stable. A list of victims is due shortly, and those who are concerned can reach the Red Cross at 800-928-4271.

Under Texas law, the name of the driver cannot be released until he is formally charged. Some local news outlets are speculating on his identity at this time, but it has not yet been formally released .The driver will be charged with two counts of capital murder and multiple counts of aggravated assault with a vehicle for an act the police chief called both “evil” and “intentional.” Acevedo said the driver was definitely drunk and may have been under the influence of other substances.

Events at SXSW will continue, although many events will be rescheduled or canceled from the Mohawk and Cheer Up Charlie’s, the popular queer bar near some of the worst of the crime scene.

It is remarkable that this is the first event of its kind at the festival after over two decades — alcohol is plentiful and often free, and the sheer density of both music venues and crowds in attendance is hard to describe if you haven’t personally witnessed it. SXSW claims over 5,000 events happen in under two weeks, counting the Music, Interactive and Film arms of the festival. People travel from all over the world to Austin, with entire careers potentially riding on their success at the festival — whether it’s a band looking for a label, an app for funding, or a film for a distributor.

It’s also clear from social media that many Austin residents and visitors alike are shaken by the morning’s events.

Update 4:00pm Central:

Seton Hospitals released this press conference footage not long ago.

Update 2:20pm Central: Heavy offers “5 Fast Facts About Rashid Charjuan Owens” including his prior arrest record and a clear map of the incident. Thanks to Ronnie Garza for this link.

Update 12:50pm Central: The identity of the driver of the stolen car who left two dead and dozens injured has been identified as Rashad Charjuan Owens of Killeen, Texas.

St. David’s Episcopal Church is holding a prayer service at 5:30pm prayer service for victims in their Labyrinth at 301 E. 8th St. All are invited.

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Kit OConnell

Kit OConnell

Kit O’Connell is a gonzo journalist and radical troublemaker from Austin, Texas. He is the Associate Editor and Community Manager of Shadowproof. Kit's investigative journalism has appeared in Truthout, MintPress News and