The Drunk Driver Who Mauled a Crowd at SXSW Pleads Not Guilty

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(Scene following the tragic mauling of more than 20 SXSW attendees; March 13th, 2014)

It was the lowest point ever of SXSW: on a crowded, hot, festive night of March 13th, 2014, a police chase veered into a blocked-off street, killing four and injuring more than 20.  Behind the wheel was a drunken Rashad Charjuan Owens, speeding to avoid the cops but ultimately creating a massacre.

Now, Owens has pled ‘not guilty’ in a filing with the Travis County District Court, while facing capital murder charges and more than 20 counts of aggravated assault with a motor vehicle.  Owens, at SXSW as an aspiring rapper, has been incarcerated since the incident on a bail of $5.5 million.

“Owens has been painted as an animal…”

The plea is part of an ongoing fallout that could spill into SXSW 2016.  Owens has been painted as an animal, though it’s unclear why Austin police officers pursued Owens in a dangerous, high-speed chase in the middle of a massively-crowded festival.  The chase, which started with a police stop at a gas station, quickly spilled into a ‘Dukes of Hazzard’ style pursuit, with Owens and cops speeding against traffic on a one-way street.


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Owens then made that fateful turn into a barricaded block.

The show went on, with SXSW conference organizers keeping the festivities alive without missing a beat.  But since that point, both conference organizers and police have been faced with serious questions about an event that brings billions of dollars, but an increasing number of safety problems.  After the incident, SXSW organizers were faced with wrongful death suits from victims’ families; police defended their actions immediately after the tragedy, telling members of the media that Owens – and Owens alone – was responsible for the tragedy.


3 Responses

  1. Anon

    The block text “Owens has been painted as an animal…” implies that it is a direct quote, due to the quotation marks, when in fact it is an editorial assertion made in the article. From a journalistic perspective, it’s misleading to imply that someone other than the author of the article said that. Just sayin’.

    • Remi Swierczek

      Possibly we should be all obsessed with this story! It affects all of us, also “premium” white neighborhoods.

      The problem is stupid POLICE procedures, not only high speed chasing, many stupid laws, regulations and
      6 million overpaid POLICEMEN keeping society at check and almost one percent of population in prison.

      1/3 of global inmates are Americans in USA – we are just 4% of global population.

      My town is #20th best place to live in USA (by Money Magazine / CNN), population 60K w/172 sworn OFFICERS. I call it East Germany of Ohio and often recall communist Poland as a Land of Free.