Today Marks the One-Year Anniversary of the Fatal Car Crash at SXSW That Killed Four
It was one year ago today, a fitting Friday the 13th anniversary, that Rashad Owens forever changed the landscape of SXSW Music Festival in Austin. It was his car that took four lives and injured 23 others while attempting to flee police officers.
I remember waking up to the news all over Twitter and saw it online as soon as I arrived at work around 5:15am. Any time mass injuries are reported at a large public event, it immediately brings to mind the possibility of a planned attack of some sort. Although it will come as no solace to the families that lost loved ones, the attack was just a traffic stop gone wrong.
Rashad Owens, a Killeen resident, had been in Austin in conjunction with SXSW. Owens was scheduled to appear at a concert later that evening, one year ago today, as a performer/rapper. Of course, anyone with a microphone and a tongue can consider themselves a rapper.
In actuality, he was a reckless troublemaker. He'd been arrested for DUI and other charges in Alaska and had a current warrant for his arrest in AK at the time of the run-in with Austin PD at a sobriety checkpoint. Not wanting to return to jail with his lucrative hip hop career certainly right around the corner, Owens took off and was said to have intentionally gunned the engine as he approached the first group of those injured during his two-block rampage.
After injuring 23 and killing two on the scene (two would die at hospitals later), Owens attempted to flee on foot. His escape, much like his rap career, came to an end with a thud and several thousand volts of electricity from a police officer's taser. He now faces capital murder charges (which carry the possibility of the death penalty) and nearly two-dozen charges of assault with a deadly weapon.
Despite SXSW organizers bringing in 30 TABC officers and are providing sturdier barricades, the lawsuits from the families have begun. One such lawsuit, filed on behalf of a Dutch musician in town for the festival one year ago today, is calling for $1,000,000+, saying, "A festival organizer or traffic design consultant of ordinary intelligence would have anticipated the danger".
For SXSW, this incident wasn't transformative in the sense that it was a tragedy that some say would have been avoided had the police not set up a sobriety checkpoint. Others say the barriers should have been sturdier. What you're not hearing as necessary is any changes on the behalf of the festival. It will remain the hipster haven very few of the rest of us actually concern ourselves with.