Austin, TX- A suspected drunken driver was attempting to evade police when they drove through a barricade on closed off street, plowed into a crowd of people waiting to get into a music venue at the South by Southwest festival in Austin.
Austin Police Chief Art Acevedo told the Austin Statesman that a DWI task force officer attempted to a stop the driver of Toyota sedan at around 12:30 a.m. Thursday morning. The driver made maneuvers to evade police—presumably to avoid a DWI charge– by weaving through cars parked at a gas station and almost struck the officer, before he managed to get away.
The driver then headed in the wrong direction down Ninth Street until arriving at Red River Street where the driver slammed through a barricade. The street had been closed to cars for a SXSW venue. The alleged intoxicated driver then barreled through a crowd of hundreds of people lined up outside the Mohawk Club listening to music.
At a press conference, Chief Acevedo said the suspect drove through the SXSW crowd for two blocks, knocking over pedestrians and leaving dozens of injured people littering the roadway. One bystander told reporters the driver appeared to be going 70, though police have not confirmed the driver’s speed.
Members of the crowd, who managed to avoid being hit, described a “horrific” scene with bodies every ten feet. Shoes and other debris was scattered everywhere. One witness told the Austin Statesman that the driver gunned the engine once he broke down the barricade.
Once the driver reached 11th, he struck two people riding on a moped. They, a man and a woman, were pronounced dead on the scene.
After striking the moped, the driver continued to flee when he struck a taxi and van. The driver then took off on foot. Police had to use a stun gun to subdue the driver, whose identity has not been released, and he was taken into custody.
A total of 23 people were injured, five of them critically. The critically injured were taken to University Medical Center Brackenridge which was close to the Mohawk Club.
The driver was also taken to a local hospital with minor injuries, but doctors worked quickly to release him because many of his victims were also at the hospital, according to HLN. Police had the suspect’s blood drawn—standard procedure when any accident results in a fatality– but it will take weeks to get the results of any chemical test.
The unidentified driver has been charged with two counts of capital murder and 23 counts of vehicular assault. Capital murder is atypical for a DWI charge involving a fatality and the accused will need an effective DUI attorney.
The SXSW festival, which offers music, film and other interactive venues, attracts thousands of people to Austin each year. A statement on the festival’s website expressed condolences for the people who were killed. They also changed some of the programming and venues.