Two Injured In SXSW Crash Remain In Critical Condition

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AUSTIN (March 15, 2014) Eight of the people injured when a car that police say was driven by a Killeen man plowed through a crowd during Austin’s South by Southwest Festival remained in hospitals Saturday, two in critical condition.

Rashad Charjuan Owens (Austin police photo)

The two victims in critical condition were at University Medical Center Brackenridge in Austin, where two others were in serious condition Saturday and two were in good condition, a hospital spokesman said.

Two other victims were in fair condition Saturday at St. David’s HealthCare, an official said.

Rashad Charjuan Owens, 21, of Killeen, meanwhile, remained in the Travis County Jail Saturday in lieu of $3 million bond, charged with one count of capital murder after police say he drove the stolen car through the crowd, killing two and injuring nearly two-dozen.

Additional charges are pending.

Police say Owens was fleeing from an officer after a traffic stop when he plowed through a crowd of concertgoers on Red River Street in downtown Austin.

An Austin woman and a man from the Netherlands, died in the incident early Thursday morning.

Police originally said 23 people were taken to hospitals, but the Austin American-Statesman reported Friday that the number included Owens, who was treated for minor injuries and then was jailed.

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A man who fled after a traffic stop, smashed through a barricade and plowed into a crowd during Austin’s South by Southwest Festival, killing two and injuring nearly two-dozen others, was facing a long list of charges including capital murder Thursday, Austin Police Chief Art Acevedo said.

Police identified the man in custody late Thursday afternoon as Rashad Charjuan Owens, 21.

Owens, who's from Killeen, was held Thursday in the Travis County Jail awaiting charges, online records showed.

Police said in a statement they’re seeking complaints charging two counts of capital murder and 23 counts of aggravated assault, but formal charges were still pending.

Owens has two misdemeanor convictions for criminal trespass in Bell County stemming from incidents in August 2010 at Shoemaker High School and January 2011 at a convenience store in Killeen.

In both cases he pleaded guilty, was given credit for jail time served and was granted probation.

He was held in the Bell County Jail from Oct. 16 to Nov. 2, 2012, Bell County sheriff's Lt. Donnie Adams said in an email.

He was released after pleading guilty to the second misdemeanor charge on Nov. 2, 2012.

In October 2011 he was charged with misdemeanor DWI and leaving the scene of an accident in Fairbanks, Alaska.

Owens pleaded to the DWI charge and the second charge was dismissed.

The man who fled after the traffic stop was driving a Honda sedan that was stolen Wednesday night from the home of a Fort Hood soldier in Killeen.

The soldier discovered the vehicle missing Thursday morning and reported it stolen.

The car struck pedestrians, a moped on which a man and a woman were riding and a man who was riding a bicycle as the driver sped down Red River Street at around 12:30 a.m. Thursday.

Initial reports indicated that the man and the woman on the moped died, but Acevedo said during a news conference Thursday morning that only the woman, later identified as Jamie Ranae West, 27, of Austin, was killed.

Her husband, Evan West, 28, survived and was in stable condition.

The other victim who died was the bicyclist, a man from the Netherlands, Acevedo said.

MassiveMusic, which has offices in Amsterdam, New York and London, later identified the man as an employee, Steven Craenmehr, 35.

In a website posting, the company said Craenmehr was “an unstoppable force, full of life, love and laughter.”

“This is an irreplaceable loss for the MassiveMusic family and we are grateful for the years we spent with him,” the company said.

Altogether, 23 other people were injured.

During a news conference Thursday morning, Dr. Christopher Ziebell, the emergency department director at the University Medical Center-Brackenridge, said two victims remained in critical condition with serious, life-threatening head injuries.

Ziebell said three other victims are in serious condition, but are expected to recover.

Three others remained hospitalized Thursday with non-life-threatening injuries and 15 others were treated and released, said James Shamarv, chief of staff of Austin-Travis County Emergency Medical Services.

The series of events that led to the carnage started after an officer who was working overtime as part of an effort to catch drunken drivers tried to stop the man just before 12:30 a.m. Thursday at a Shell gas station just off southbound Interstate 35, Acevedo said.

The man pulled into the station’s parking lot, but then suddenly pulled onto 9th street, accelerated, and fled at a high rate of speed, Acevedo said.

The officer, whose patrol unit was boxed in by other cars, had to back out of the parking lot and was turning onto 9th Street at the same time the fleeing driver was turning onto Red River, Acevedo said.

The officer tried to catch up with the vehicle, but didn’t actually initiate a pursuit until reaching Red River, Acevedo said.

Another officer was forced to jump out of the way as the vehicle smashed through the barricade he was manning on Rd River.

At 11th Street and Red River, the vehicle struck a taxi and then veered onto a sidewalk and into a parking lot where it struck a van, Acevedo said.

At that point the driver jumped out and began to run, he said.

The pursuing officer gave chase, joined by the officer who had been manning the barricade.

The first officer had to use a Taser to subdue the man, he said.

He was taken to an Austin hospital where he was treated for minor injuries.

Even more people were on the street minutes before the incident, but officials had cleared the area because it’s a fire lane.

Russ Barone witnessed the incident.

“It looked like something out of a movie,” he told reporters.

He said he saw “a few people lying on the street... with their friends around them trying to get them up, trying to get them back to life. Hopefully, they are."

"I've never seen nothing like it. I felt like I was at a war or something," Barone said. "I was down here for the music ... we were having the best time ever. And then it turned into the worst thing I've ever seen."

Austin Mayor Lee Leffingwell issued a statement early Thursday expressing condolences.

“Our thoughts and prayers are with the families of the victims, as well as those being treated in area hospitals,” he said in the statement.

“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.”

He later said this is the first such incident in the festival’s 27-year history.

(Nick Delgado contributed to this story)