Driver accused of killing 2, injuring 23 at SXSW was wanted in Alaska

Friday noon update: 

Rashad Charjuan Owens was impaired by marijuana, not alcohol, when Fairbanks police arrested him on a DUI charge in 2011, Fairbanks District Court records show.

Police were investigating a collision reported Oct. 17 at Chena Landings Loop when they arrested Owens. A Comfort Inn employee said Owens was driving a White Suburban parked behind the hotel. He had struck a light post and was attempting leave, according to a police affidavit.

Police talked to Owens — who this week is accused of killing two people and injuring 23 others while driving drunk in Texas — as he walked out of the hotel.

An officer “observed the defendant to have a strong odor of burnt marijuana, bloodshot watery eyes, heavy swaying from side to side and slow, slurred speech,” the affidavit said. “The defendant stated he had smoked a ‘blunt’ about an hour prior to driving.’”

A breath test showed his blood-alcohol level to be 0.00. Owens showed signs of impairment from marijuana following a drug-recognition exam, the officer wrote.

Original story:

From Kyle Hopkins in Anchorage –

The 21-year-old man charged with killing two people and injuring 23 others while driving drunk Thursday in Texas owes the state of Alaska thousands of dollars related to a DUI conviction in this state.

Rashad Charjuan Owens also is wanted in Alaska on an arrest warrant for failing to appear for a 2012 court hearing on charges of criminal mischief, public records show.

Police say Owens drove a Honda Civic through a street barricade at the South By Southwest festival in Austin, slamming into the crowd. He struck and killed a man on a bicycle and a woman on a moped, according to The Associated Press.

It’s unclear how long Owens lived in Alaska, but his rap sheet includes three misdemeanor arrests in the state.

Owens registered to vote June 23, 2011, in Fairbanks, listing an apartment off of South Cushman Street as his residence. (Owens never voted in Alaska, according to public records. He gave his political affiliation as “undeclared.”)

Public records show no sign that Owens received a Permanent Fund dividend.

Owens was accused of impaired-driving in the Fairbanks area on Oct. 17, according to an online court records database. He was charged with misdemeanor DUI the next day.

Owens pleaded guilty to driving under the influence the following month but prosecutors dismissed a related charge of leaving the scene of an accident. Court records show that Owens was sentenced to 10 days in jail, although it was not immediately clear if he served all 10.

Prosecutors dismissed two other charges against Owens that year: Underage drinking and violating conditions of his release.

His DUI case was reopened in April 2, 2012 for a probation violation.

Owens failed to pay $3,346.75 in fines and fees to the state related to the impaired-driving case. Those include a $1,500 fine, $1,391.75 in restitution, $330 for cost of imprisonment and a $50 jail surcharge.

Authorities arrested Owens again on May 18 in a case that remains open in Alaska courts. Charged with fourth-degree criminal mischief, a misdemeanor, he failed to show up for a court appearance on Oct. 17, 2012.

The Fairbanks court issued a warrant for his arrest.

Originally published March 13, 2014 by ANCHORAGE DAILY NEWS in Anchorage Daily News.