The South by Southwest (SXSW) entertainment and technology conference in Austin, Texas was hit by tragedy early Thursday when an allegedly drunken driver barreled down a one-way street in the wrong direction and slammed into a crowd. Two people were killed and 23 others were injured.
The incident took place outside Mohawk, a popular live-music bar. Austin Police Chief Art Acevedo described it as an "intentional act." The driver, according to local station KVUE-TV, is 21-year-old Rashad Charjuan Owens, and he was driving a stolen car. Charges against him include two counts of capital murder, as well as 23 counts of aggravated assault.
Police said they had tried to pull the driver over at a gas station after they saw him going the wrong way down a one-way street, but then he sped away and down a street that had been closed for a concert. The driver hit a moped carrying a woman and man, pedestrians, a bicycle, a taxi and a van. One bystander told CNN that the driver appeared to be swerving toward victims. He then ran on foot and was followed by police, who stopped him with a Taser and then arrested him.
'Obligation to the People'
The dead victims were the woman on the moped and a bicyclist from the Netherlands who has been identified as Steven Craenmehr, creative director of a global music agency. Two of the 23 injured were reported in critical condition.
Chief Acevedo said at a news conference that "we can't let one individual ruin this great event." Roland Swenson, director of SXSW, told news media that his organization was "stunned," but said most events still would take place because of "an obligation to the people who have traveled here from all around the world."
Austin Mayor Lee Leffingwell said at a news conference that "this is the first time in 27 years we've had an incident of this kind."
Although this year's event will probably be remembered for this tragedy, it has featured news that was memorable for better reasons.
Snowden, 3D-Printed Oreos
WikiLeaks creator Julian Assange gave a remote keynote talk from his refuge in the Ecuadorian embassy in London. Among other things, he decried the "militarization of our civilian space" because of Net- and phone-spying by the U.S.'s National Security Agency and Great Britain's GCHQ.
In keeping with the same theme, former NSA contract employee Edward Snowden also appeared remotely, his first public occasion since he went on the run after releasing classified NSA documents last spring.
App-makers have tried to become the Hot New App at SXSW, ever since Twitter took that role in 2007. Some contended that the dating app Tinder is occupying that position this year. Oreo offered vending machines that "printed" cookies with a 3D printing system, with the flavors determined by trends on Twitter.
Other highlights included a launch party for Microsoft's highly anticipated video game Titanfall, from the team that developed Call of Duty; ply,s a dance party featuring LightWave bracelets that track body temperature, movement and general excitement; and, the huge music scene for which the event is known.
Posted: 2014-03-17 @ 6:46pm PT
Our thoughts and prayers go out to the families and friends who, through this senseless act of violence, lost their loved ones: Sandy Thuy Le, 26, originally from Mississippi; Jamie West, 27, of Austin, Texas; and Steven Craenmehr, 35, of Amsterdam.
Sending thoughts and prayers also for a full and speedy recovery for those still in the hospital and all the others injured and traumatized by terrible act of rage.