Man Who Slammed Into SXSW Crowd Gets Life in Prison

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Rashad Charjuan Owens

AUSTIN — The man who killed four people when he plowed his car into a crowd at the 2014 South by Southwest Festival¬†was sentenced Friday to life without parole.

Prosecutors did not seek the death penalty against Rashad Charjuan Owens, 23. Because the jury convicted Owens on charges of capital murder, the sentence was automatic.

At least 23 people were hurt. South by Southwest is an annual spring event that features film, interactive and music festivals, and draws tens of thousands of people to the Texas capital every year.

The incident began when an officer noticed a man driving in the wrong direction on a one-way street shortly after midnight, police said.

A patrol officer attempted to stop the car near a crowded gas station. The driver acted as if he was pulling over into the gas station but continued through the parking lot and exited, accelerating down the street, police said. Police later said Owens was intoxicated.

The first officer didn’t follow because the street was so crowded. Another officer working barricade control had to jump out of the driver’s way as he accelerated for about two blocks, striking pedestrians and vehicles, police said.

Photos and video posted to social media showed people sprawled on a street for about a block with first responders kneeling over them. In one instance, paramedics are seen performing CPR.

Relatives of the victims gave impact statements in court later on Friday.