SXSW Rolls On Despite Tragedy Caused by Aspiring Rapper Who Was Supposed to be Part of the Show

Rashad Charjuan Owens (Photo: AP)
Rashad Charjuan Owens (Photo: AP)

The South by Southwest music conference and festival was supposed to be Rashad Charjuan Owens’ gateway to fame.

Instead, the 21-year-old aspiring rapper sits in jail, accused of enacting one of the darkest moments in the festival’s 27 year history. Police say Owens, evading police, barreled a car down a street crowded with revelers early Thursday, killing two and sending 23 others to area hospitals.

A police affidavit for his arrest shows that Owens was given a breathalyzer test at the scene and had a blood-alcohol level of .114, higher than the Texas’ legal limit. In the affidavit, Owens tells investigators he became alarmed when a police officer pulled up behind him after he committed a traffic violation because he has outstanding kidnapping warrants. He’s in a custody battle over his daughter, Owens told the interviewer.

By Friday afternoon, nine of the victims remained hospitalized, including two still in critical condition.

“We’re just trying to move forward,” said Anton Murray, an Austin Police Department spokesman. “Everything seems to be returning to normal.”

Indeed, the festival continued with no cancellations Friday, as attendees lined up for afternoon shows at downtown clubs or filed into the Austin Convention Center to catch a keynote speech by Lady Gaga.

Owens was supposed to be part of that reveling. Lamar Wilson, Owen’s brother, said he and his brother had driven to Austin from Killeen, Tex., to try to get Owen’s budding rap career noticed. Owen was scheduled to go on stage at 1 a.m. Thursday at Club 1808 in East Austin.

“He was going to go down there, sell mixed tapes, network, come back home,” Wilson said in an interview with WFAA-TV Dallas.

Instead, Austin Police say that about a half-hour before he was scheduled to perform, a police officer tried to pull over Owens in a car he was driving for a routine traffic stop near Interstate 35 and East Ninth Street. Owens fled through a gas station, drove the wrong way down Ninth Street, crashed through a barricade and barreled up Red River Street, which had been closed to traffic and milling with festival-goers.

Witnesses recalled seeing bodies flying over the runaway car, as it clipped pedestrians and continued up to 11th Street, where it hit a moped, taxicab and bicyclist before hopping a sidewalk and striking a van, according to a police report. Owens tried to flee on foot, but police officers tased and arrested him. Officers on the scene suspected Owens may have been drinking, but toxicology reports have not been finalized, Murray said.

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SOURCE: Rick Jervis
USA TODAY

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