Suspect in SXSW car crash to face 2 counts of capital murder

AUSTIN, Texas -- The South by Southwest festival will go on, officials said Thursday, after a tumultuous night during which a suspected drunk driver, who faces capital murder charges, allegedly killed two people and injured 23 others at the city’s premier festival of music, film and technology.

At a morning news conference, officials gave a slightly different version of events but agreed with SXSW chief Roland Swenson who said the show would go on, though many of the staffers would rather go home.

"We would all like to go home, but we feel an obligation to carry on," Swenson said.

"It would cause more problems for people to show up and be turned away than to carry on,” he said.

Authorities said they backed that decision.

"We cannot allow one individual to ruin a celebration of life, of music," Police Chief Art Acevedo told reporters.

PHOTOS: Emergency crews respond at SXSW

The suspect will not be named until he is formally charged, Acevedo said. He added that officials will seek two counts of capital murder, the highest charge in the state, as well as multiple counts of aggravated assault.

Blood samples have been taken from the suspect and will be examined.

Based on further investigation, police revised the timeline of the Thursday morning events, the chief said.

The incident began around 12:30 a.m. at Red River and Ninth streets at the northeast edge of the entertainment district between an apartment building and the Mohawk nightclub, where several acts were performing Wednesday night. The bands X and TEEN had just wrapped up, and rapper Tyler the Creator was scheduled to perform at 1 a.m.

According to the latest reports, the driver was pulled over early Thursday and then took off, going the wrong way on the street. During his flight, he hit a bicyclist, a moped with two passengers, a taxi and then went up on a sidewalk. He then hit a van, police said.

Originally, police had said the two dead were on the moped, but that has been revised. One of the dead was a passenger on the moped and the other dead person was the bicyclist.

None of the victims was named. But the moped passenger was described as a woman from Austin and the bicyclist was a man from the Netherlands.

The driver was eventually subdued by police who used a stun gun, police said.

Along with the dead, there were 23 injured. Amid the confusion, earlier reports gave varying numbers.

Of that group, officials said five were initially in "very critical" condition and were taken to hospitals within 15 minutes. Five were described as "very seriously" injured and 13 sustained minor injuries.

By later Thursday morning, officials said, two remained in "very critical" condition with head wounds and the three others were listed in critical condition. Three remained hospitalized in good condition and 15 had been treated and released.

Meanwhile the city, whose counterculture and feisty identity is put on display during the annual festival, struggled to come to grips with the events.

"This is truly a tragedy," Austin Mayor Lee Leffingwell told reporters. But that grief was tempered with pride in what officials said was effective response.

“This is a gut check," police chief Acevedo said of the response by several agencies including police, fire and emergency workers. "It restores our faith in the human race."

The chief also praised the festival for carrying on.

"This individual showed no regard to human beings," the chief said of what he called an "intentional act."

Ten hours ago, the scene at 9th and Red River streets was one of chaos, and blood-flecked debris filled the street that had previously been packed with jubilant concertgoers.

At 10 a.m. Thursday, the scene was more desolate and somber. Several nearby streets were still barricaded with police tape, and the usual SXSW crowds of hungover morning revelers were nowhere to be seen.

Stray show fliers and posters littered the sidewalks and blew in the cold wind. Around the news conference, a few food vendors were setting up their trucks for the day's crowds, and inside one nearby venue, a band tried to soundcheck their microphones but quickly ceased playing.

All of today's concerts -- including Lady Gaga's pop spectacle at Stubb's BBQ just down the block -- were expected to continue as planned. But on the morning of the carnage at SXSW, there was no longer any sense of a party.

Brown reported from Austin and Muskal reported from Los Angeles.

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