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Sunday, December 11, 2016

By August Brown and Andrea Chang, Los Angeles Times

AUSTIN, Texas — A speeding car drove into a packed crowd of pedestrians outside a busy downtown Austin nightclub during the South By Southwest music festival early Thursday morning, killing two bystanders and injuring at least 23.

The incident began shortly after midnight when a motorist being stopped on suspicion of driving while intoxicated sped away from police, broke through a barricade and headed the wrong way down a one-way street crowded with music revelers, police said.

The car slammed into a crowd standing near the Mohawk nightclub, striking two people on a motorized scooter who were killed immediately, then hit a number of other bystanders. At least 10 people were taken to the hospital, five in critical condition.

Police hit the suspect with an electric stun gun and he was taken into custody at the scene.

“There is only one person responsible for this, someone with no regard for the sanctity of life,” Austin Police Chief Art Acevedo told reporters in a hastily called briefing. “Our focus is on gathering evidence and seeking justice for the people who lost their lives.”

The incident happened at the height of the evening’s festivities during the South By Southwest festival, with a number of musical performances under way at clubs up and down the area near Red River Street and 10th Street.

The street was instantly transformed into a scene of bloody mayhem, as emergency medical technicians rushed to aid the victims and police took the suspect into custody.

Jayda Luna, 21, said he was waiting in line hoping to score free tickets to see Tyler, the Creator when the car plowed through the crowd and slammed into the person standing next to Luna.

“I saw bodies fly into the air, and there was blood and it was unbelievable,” said Luna, a junior at Texas State. “It was the most horrific thing I’ve ever seen in my entire life.”

Luna said the impact was so great that it knocked the side mirror off the car and the man who was struck was thrown into Luna’s girlfriend, 19-year-old Jasmine Rodriguez.

“We were inches from getting hit. Seriously, the car was right there,” Luna said. “I didn’t even have to extend my arm the whole way to touch that car, that’s how close it was. It’s a blessing we didn’t get hit.”