AUSTIN, Texas— The 147th District courtroom was full of emotional testimony from survivors and family of the victims from the SXSW fatal crash. Rashad Owens is on trial for Capital Murder following the crash that killed four people and injured another 20.
In video shown in court on Wednesday, Owens admitted he had been drinking and recently did time for a DWI. But that’s not why police originally tried to stop Owens in the early morning hours of March 13, 2014.
Owens was stopped on that early morning because he was driving without his lights on.
Investigators say Owens was spotted for a minor traffic violation but didn’t stop. Dash camera video shows Owens pulling through the Shell station, driving the wrong-way up 9th Street. Owens then passes a barricade on Red River and sped through a crowd of people outside of a SXSW music venue.
After being taken into custody and put in the back of a patrol car, Owens talks about what happened, sounding remorseful.
"All I care about is me not killing nobody, I didn't mean no harm to nobody, I was just scared," Owens said.
Owens prayed in the backseat of the patrol car and repeatedly called out to God. Hearing Owens's reaction was difficult for some in the court room, especially as he started to pray. Some loved ones left the courtroom while others were in tears.
"I promise... Please God don't let nobody die, I don’t want that on my hands, I promise, I don't mean no harm to nobody I was just scared," he prayed. Owens also voiced regret about his decision for being in Austin. "Should have stayed home, but I had to make some money for my kid."
Owens was in Austin last year to perform in an unsanctioned SXSW concert at an East Austin bar.
A friend testified Owens went to get some music CDs out of the car but took off in his car instead. Owens told an APD officer he was going to the Shell station to pick up his friend.
Officer Robert Mitchell, the APD officer who conducted the field sobriety test, said Owens wanted to distance himself from the situation and that he didn't think Owens understood the gravity of what happened.
"He kept saying over and over he didn’t mean to do it, apologized. He knew he was in a lot of trouble and he was telling me he just wanted to go to the hospital he didn’t want to go to jail just the hospital," Officer Mitchell said.
Owen begged to go to the hospital. At one point, Owens took off his pants to show Mitchell scratches on them. Officer Mitchell testified Owens eyes were blood-shot, his speech was slurred and alcohol could be smelled. Mitchell says during the test, Owens was uncooperative. When asked how much he had to drink, Owens became irritated and began screaming.
"I don't know... I just want to get back to my kid. I didn't mean for this to happen," Owens said.
Owens admitted he had been drinking and driving but says he blacked out and didn't remember what happened.
"I don't remember. All I remember is blue lights behind me. When I came to, I was told I killed somebody," Owens said.
Owens’ blood-alcohol level was .114 during the sobriety test. Hours later at the hospital, when his blood was drawn, his BAC was .095. The legal limit is .08. Toxicologists also say marijuana was in Owens system, which could have affected his ability to drive.
Medical examiners testified Wednesday about the deaths of: Jamie West, DeAndre Tatum, Sandy Le, and Steven Craenmehr.
Jaime West and Steven Creanmehr died at the scene. The medical examiner said West died from blunt force trauma and died within seconds after Owens hit her with the Honda he was driving. Steven Craenmehr's brain stem was severed and died instantaneously.
Sandy Le died the following week and DeAndrea Tatum weeks later. All four deaths have been ruled as homicides, not accidental.
"I don’t think the people who ended up dying knew the individual that hit them, but there was an intention of going through the barricade... plowing through those people," Doctor Kendall Crown, a medical examiner, said.
The issue of intent was challenged when Officer Mitchell was on the stand. Defense attorneys suggested racial tension as a possible excuse for Owens.
Owens attorney, Rick Jones: "Do you think it's unusual for young black man but a policeman might kill him?”
Prosecutor: “Objection your honor what the relevance of this?"
Officer Mitchell responded saying, “in this case, yes.”
But on the night of the crash, Owens offered his own assessment of his actions.
"I should have just stopped."