Red River Tragedy
Over the past 15 hours, there has been a flurry of information, press conferences, renegade tweets and a lot of speculation about this morning's tragic incident on Red River Street. In an attempt to make sense of the coverage, we've gathered what we are able to confirm, as well as a few ways we can all be proactive in helping our community begin the process of healing.
The suspect: TheAustin Police Department have named 21-year-old Rashad Charjuan Owens as the suspect in today's early morning car crash that left two people dead and two dozen injured.
According to an interview with the Austin American-Statesman, Owens' grandmother told the reporter that he was raised in Killeen, enjoys producing music and has a toddler son. Owens has previously been arrested for misdemeanors in Alaska and Texas.
The suspect was booked around 5 am and will be charged with capital murder and aggravated assault with a vehicle later today. Owens allegedly was driving a stolen gray Honda Civic. According to The Daily Texan, Fort Hood soldier Andrew Barmwell reported the car stolen earlier today.
The victims: At a press conference this morning, Austin Police Chief Art Acevedo confirmed that the two deceased included a man from the Netherlands and an Austin woman. Though their identities have not officially been released, MassiveMusic, a music agency with offices in Amsterdam, London, New York, Los Angeles and Shanghai, confirmed that their employee Steven Craenmehr, was the male victim.
In a statement, MassiveMusic wrote, "It is with great sadness that we announce the sudden passing of our close friend and colleague Steven Craenmehr, 35, on March 13th, 2014 at SXSW. During the 8 years that Steven worked for MassiveMusic, we got to know him as an unstoppable force, full of life, love and laughter."
Craenmehr was struck while riding a bicycle; the woman was a passenger on a moped. The driver of the moped was taken to the hospital.
As of this morning, eight of the 25 victims remain in the hospital. Five of the most critical cases are at University Medical Center Brackenridge. Brackenridge Emergency Room Medical Director Dr. Chris Ziebell said most of the victims appeared to be in their twenties. Ziebell also confirmed that the most severe cases included spinal fractures and head injuries.
The scene: The chase began at the Shell gas station on the southbound I-35 frontage road at 9th Street. Suspecting a DUI, an APD officer signaled for Owens to pull over into the busy (and crowded) Shell parking lot. The Civic stopped before accelerating out of the gas station, forcing the officer to back out of the parking lot and go around the corner. The car then made a right, driving the wrong way down 9th Street. He then made a right onto Red River, barreled through a police barricade forcing an officer to dive out of the way, and drove two blocks while knocking dozens of people down.
Eyewitnesses have reported that the driver appeared to be deliberately trying to hit people, a sentiment Acevedo echoed this morning, repeatedly calling it an "intentional" incident. In an interview with the New York Times, one woman said it looked like people were "flying" as the Civic struck them.
Reaching 11th Street, Owens jumped out of the car and was pursued on foot by both the original officer and the officer who jumped away from the barrier. The suspect was tased by officers, thus ending the pursuit. A warrant was issued to take a sample from Owens to determine his blood alcohol content. Those results are not yet available.
Cheer Up's and Mohawk: Both venues canceled their day shows but Cheer Up's has announced via Facebook that they will re-open tonight for the 4AD showcase beginning at 8 pm. Mohawk will also be open.
How to help: Cheer Up Charlie's and Mohawk have spent the day working with the City of Austin to establish the SXSW Cares Fund. Donations will help people affected by the tragic events and will be disbursed to those most affected through a community-based process. In a statement, Mohawk owner James Moody said, "We have spent today working with SXSW and the city to create a relief fund for the victims. This is our number one priority — their care and support. We are a community here that exists far beyond the 10 days of SXSW. Our intent is to come together to help the families of each and every one of the victims.” For more information, please visit www.sxswcares.com
The Blood Center of Central Texas is in need of blood donations. KVUE has a comprehensive list of donation centers, hours of operation and requirements.
St. David's Episcopal Church is hosting a prayer service tonight at 5:30 pm in their Labyrinth. All are welcome.
If you witnessed the event, have any photos, video or audio, please submit them to the Austin Police Department. For more information, please call 512-974-5186.
If you need help: If you are concerned about a love one, please call the Red Cross at 1-800-928-4271. If you witnessed the accident, the aftermath or just need help in processing today's events, the Red Cross is offering free incident stress support. Please call 512-928-4271 to speak with a mental health counselor.