Rashad Owens, the driver involved in a crash that killed four people at the 2014 South by Southwest Music Festival, has been found guilty of capital murder.
AUSTIN — The driver that sped through a crowded street during last year’s SXSW music festival, killing four people and injuring more than 20 others, was found guilty of capital murder on Friday and sentenced to life in prison without parole.
Rashad Owens, 23, sat in a dark suit and blue tie as the judge announced the verdict and sentence. Several onlookers in the courtroom, including relatives of the victims, hugged or dabbed at eyes welling with tears.
Police said Owens, an aspiring rapper, was in town to perform at a nightclub when Austin police tried to pull him over along a downtown street at around 12:30 a.m. on Mar. 13, 2014, for driving without his headlights on. Owens sped away, speeding through a gas station, driving the wrong way down a one-way street, crashing through traffic barricades and speeding north on Red River Street, which was crowded with festival goers waiting in line to get into some of the nightclubs, police said.
Witnesses later recalled seeing bodies flying over the runaway car, as it clipped pedestrians and continued up the 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 arrested him.
Prosecutors at the trial said Owens was drunk and was avoiding a traffic stop. The defense rested Thursday without calling Owens or any other witnesses to the stand. The verdict, which took less than four hours to reach, brought to a close one of the darkest moments in the festival’s 28-year history.
During the trial, the Travis County jury watched police video of Owens sobbing, wailing, praying and refusing to cooperate with field sobriety tests.
At one point, while seated in the back seat of a police patrol car, Owens whispered over and over to himself, “Please, God; please, God; please god; please God. Please don’t let anybody die.”
At one point, he cried out to a nearby officer, “Sir, all I care about is me not killing nobody. I didn’t mean to hurt nobody. I was just scared. I didn’t mean to.”
Contributing: Associated Press
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