Austin police have identified the 22-year old driver they allege drove through barricaded streets at Austin’s South by Southwest Festival, killing two people and injuring 23 others. 22-year old Rashad Owens of Killeen has been charged with two counts of capital murder and 23 counts of aggravated assault with a deadly weapon.
Austin Police Chief Art Acevedo says it was just after midnight on Wednesday night, early Thursday morning, when one of his officers attempted to pull over a suspected drunk driver just a block away from the international festival in downtown Austin, but rather than stopping, the driver sped away from police, barreling through event barricades and a crowd of people.
Acevedo says, “The suspect then rapidly accelerated down the street that you see behind me for about two block to about 11th street, striking most of the pedestrians right here in this block between 9th and 10th.”
Acevedo says the Austin Police will review their procedures for the barricade control; he didn’t perceive there being any changes to how they handle this element of crowd control.
“An individual that is willing to drive down a street mowing people down is either going to crash through a barricade or go around a barricade," Acevedo says.
James Schamard with Travis County Emergency Services says their paramedics have an ongoing training for this type of event.
"When crews show up in midday at SXSW for example, we not only review the plan on how we are going to handle the typical patients, but we review how we are going to handle a mass-casualty situation such as this should it occur,” Schamard says.
SXSW orgainizers say this is the first time in their 27-year history that something like this has occured, the Festival's Managing Director Roland Swenson says, "The SXSW staff is stunned and deeply moved by the events.”
But despite the tragedy he says they will be continuing the international event in Austin that draws crowds in the hundreds of thousands.
“As much as we would just like to go home and continue absorbing the shock of this horrific event," Swenson says, "we feel that our best use is to continue to operate today. Our thoughts and our prayers are the families of the injured and the families of the fatalities.”
SXSW organizers are planning to honor those who died with a memorial. In the meantime, they've set up a website where you can donate to help the victims of the tragedy.