AUSTIN, TX (RNN) – The South by Southwest festival will continue with events with some rescheduling after a suspected drunken driver killed two and inured 23 when he drove his car down a one-way street as people spilled out of concert venue just after midnight Thursday.
Austin police have identified the suspect as Rashad Charjuan Owens, 21.
The managing director of the event was visibly shaken at a Thursday morning news conference.
"As much as we would like to go home and spend time absorbing this shock of this horrific event, we feel our best use is to continue to operate today," Roland Swenson told a crowd of media. "Our thoughts and prayers are with the injured and the families of the fatalities."
Among the dead is a man from the Netherlands, Steven Craenmehr, 35, who was on a bicycle. He worked for Massive Music, which has offices in Amsterdam, London and New York. Also dead is a Texas woman who was riding on the back of a moped; the driver of the moped survived and is hospitalized.
Police said the suspect was trying to avoid a DUI checkpoint at about 12:30 a.m. CST on Thursday. He sped away from police and drove past barricades set up for the festival, drove the wrong way down a one-way street and plowed into pedestrians, cyclists and other vehicles before fleeing on foot.
The officer manning the barricades leaped out of the way of the speeding car, according to police. He and the officer from the DUI checkpoint chased the suspect on foot before using a stun gun to subdue him and take him into custody.
The suspect will be charged with two counts of capital murder and 23 counts of aggravated assault with a vehicle. He has been booked by Austin police.
Two victims are in critical condition at University Medical Center Brackenridge with head injuries. Others who were injured are at area hospitals, including three in serious condition and three others with non-life-threatening injuries. Fifteen were treated and released, including the suspect, who is now in police custody.
People were leaving concerts associated with South by Southwest near a bar called The Mohawk. Officials had started to clear the road because it was a fire lane. It was the first night of concerts associated with the annual festival that features music, technology and film.
"I just thank God that a lot of the folks had already been pushed on the sidewalk or this could have been a lot worse," Austin Police Chief Art Acevedo said at a news conference.
Acevedo turned to Swenson during the news conference to encourage him, organizers and attendees that the festival should continue despite what he called a selfish act.
"We urge them to continue with this great venue, we cannot let one individual with this selfish act to care about one person that was himself, to ruin a wonderful event, a worldwide event a celebration of life, a celebration of music if you cancel this event. It would be a victory for evil and not a victory for humanity," said Acevedo.
Officials said that this was the first incident of deaths at SXSW in the 27-year history of the event.
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