Testimony begins in Rashad Owens trial

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Rashad Owens, a man accused of murdering four people and injuring 21 others at the South by Southwest Music Festival last year by drunkenly driving a car through crowds of people, stood for his first day of trial on Monday.

Owens’ lawyers said he had never intended to kill anyone and only began driving off-route when he panicked while being pursued by police.

Meredith Bradley, a witness to the incident, said Owens drove into crowds gathered on Red River Street at high speeds without regard for the people he was impacting.

“He was just driving super, super fast and whipped into that turn without stopping,” Bradley said. “He just whipped into that crowd of people. You just saw those people being mowed down. The first victim got tossed around like a rag doll.”

Owens is facing four counts of capital murder for intentionally killing the four victims and four counts of felony murder for killing them while evading the police. Owens pleaded not guilty to all charges in September. 

Owens has remained in custody at Travis County Jail since the fatal crash on March 13, 2014. His bail is set at $5.5 million. 

Police said Owens fled from a sobriety checkpoint, smashed through a police barricade and then crashed into nearly 30 people as he sped through downtown Austin.

According to Owens’ defense attorney, Russell Hunt, Owens was visiting Austin that weekend to perform with a rap act. He had been driving a car he had borrowed to pick up a lost friend, and had his headlights off when the police tried to pull him over.

“He didn’t intend to kill anybody,” Hunt said. “We are not asking for forgiveness. We are asking for you to be reasonable.”

For student reactions to the SXSW crash, click here.