SXSW crash suspect, Rashad Owens, was in Austin to perform, has criminal history

11:20 AM, Mar 14, 2014   |    comments
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(WFAA) KILLEEN -- Two long-time friends of Rashad Owens said the drunk driving suspect was in Austin on Wednesday night to perform with them at a club called 1808 before he's accused of hitting 25 pedestrians, killing two.

"He was just looking for us," said Lamar Wilson, 23.

Lamar Wilson and Treal Wilson, 22, no relation, said they were talking to Owens on the phone before the crash trying to find a mutual meeting location before going to the club together.

"What I think is, when he saw the police get behind him, he got instantly scared. Like 'Man, what am I going to do?' I guess he just tried to run and went down the wrong way," Lamar explained. "And being intoxicated - that plus that equals what happened."

He said Owens, a rapper, was drinking alcohol before the crash.

But when Owens stopped answering his phone, the Wilsons decided to walk to the club on their own in hopes of meeting him there.

"We started walking, saw cops everywhere and thought it was something else," Treal Wilson said. "We were at the club waiting for him a good two hours. We kept calling him and calling him, and he wouldn't answer."

The three young men are members of a rap group called "SMG," which stands for Strictly Mafioso Gang.

"We were going to go down there, sell mix tapes, network, come back home. But never made it," Lamar Wilson said.

They were also supposed to perform at the club at 1:00 a.m.

Both men offered an apology to the victims of Owens' crash.

"On behalf of SMG, and behalf of us, I'm sorry," Lamar Wilson said. "For those 23 that's injured, we're sorry. We don't wish this on nobody. We didn't expect this to happen."

The two long-time friends also said Owens did not steal the car used in the crash. Instead, they said, Owens borrowed it from another rapper at the club.

The vehicle wasn't reported stolen until Thursday morning, apparently after the artist tried to leave but couldn't find his car.

The Wilsons said Owens, 21, is a loyal friend and, like others, have not yet processed the magnitude of what he's accused of doing.

"It wasn't like my brother did this out of rage, or did this out of anger, or he did this out of hate. He was scared," Lamar explained.

"I honestly broke down earlier," Treal added. "That's my brother. We grew up together from yay high."

Owens was born in South Carolina, but grew up in Killeen, where his mother served in the military. He moved to Alaska a few years ago to raise a son, but recently returned. His girlfriend in Kileen had another boy with him two months ago, the Wilsons said.

"I even told him a couple times I look up to him, because I have three kids myself and he has six. He's a perfect pop. Perfect." Treal said.

Owens was arrested in Killeen in September 2010 for criminal trespassing, and while living in Alaska, he was arrested for DUI after crashing his SUV into a utility pole.

The police officer who responded to the wreck said he "detected a very strong odor of burnt marijuana" on Owens.

"Rashad's eyes were extremely blood shot and watery, he swayed heavily from side-to-side and his speech was slow and slurred," according to the 2011 police report from Fairbanks, Alaska.

Friends said he returned to Killeen not long after to be with family and friends.

Lamar Wilson said Owens had recently earned his GED and was focusing on his music before the Austin crash.

"I'm empty," Wilson said. "I'll tell you that."

Austin police said they planned to charge him with capital murder and aggravated assault with a vehicle.

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