DUI Suspect Charged With Vehicular Homicide at SXSW Concert in Texas

Finebloom, Haenel & Higgins

Each year, the ever popular South by Southwest Concert makes national headlines, but 2014 marks the first year these headlines were related to a succession of DUI accidents rather than a series of outstanding musical performances. In an episode that ended in two fatalities, DUI suspect Rashad Charjuan Owens was escorted beyond the police barricades he had previously driven over in handcuffs. Rashad is currently facing two counts of capital murder and 23 counts of aggravated assault in the greater Texas region.

Police allege that their dashboard camera footage will prove to jurors beyond reasonable doubt that Mr. Owens not only plowed down innocent bystanders on the evening in question, but that he also showed no signs of remorse for their loss of life. The victims of Rashad’s alleged vehicular homicide were travelers and concert goers like himself, but their preferred methods of transportation were a bicycle and a moped. Each of these vehicles offers much less protection in the event of collision and both victims were killed on impact in a horrifying scene which spectators have described as “bodies flying through the air”.

The South by Southwest festival is a critically acclaimed Texas gathering that annually draws more than 30,000 residents and tourists. The startling event, which took place in the middle of the week long fiasco, has left many concert goers too terrified to return. While Mr. Owens’ reckless driving led to only two fatalities, many more people were injured in the crowd. The Austin Police Department, in collaboration with the venue’s many planners, has decided that the show must go on in order to eliminate confusion and reduce the widespread panic of thousands of ticket holders. The fate of Mr. Owens, the driver accused of inciting the panic, is still undetermined.

Other victims who sustained injuries during the unexpected chaos were rushed to the nearby hospital. Some are in serious condition. Mr. Owens could face even more charges if any of the injured pedestrians lose their lives or mobility as a result of his failure to comply with the rules of the road. Police report that Owens originally struck the pedestrians in an attempt to avoid being tested for sobriety. They claim he simply drove through the barricades and sped out into the crowd.

 While Mr. Owens should definitely be held responsible for his actions, it is important to remember that just about every DUI has the potential to end in fatality, even in instances where injuries are avoided. Hopefully, when planning future events, the layout of Texas concerts will be carefully scrutinized ahead of time as to prevent accidents like this from being a possibility. Even sober drivers can cause bodily harm to others in situations where heavy bicycle traffic meets heavy foot and automobile traffic. In critical DUI cases, such as the Owens case, increasing intoxication can play a part in a driver’s ability to determine their own sobriety. If Owens was uncertain of his sobriety at the time of approaching the police checkpoint, he could also have been unaware of the severity of his actions.