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The motorist, identified as Rashad Charjuan Owens, 21, told police he fled from a traffic stop because he had outstanding arrest warrants and feared prison time, a local newspaper said. He was subdued by an officer using a stun gun after the incident near SXSW in Austin.
SXSW, running from March 7 to March 16, began as a music event in 1987. It features technology conferences, a film festival and music shows that draw tens of thousands of people to the Texas capital annually.
Owens faces one count of capital murder and is being held on $3 million bond, the Austin Police Department said on its website. Police have said he faces additional charges.
Owens was asked to pull over at a sobriety check point and instead sped away from a police car. He smashed through a police barricade and then plowed down people, some of them lined up outside a nightclub, over a span of two blocks.
Witnesses said victims were flying in the air after being struck.
Owens told police he saw police lights in his mirror and "got scared because he has warrants" and did not want to go to prison, the Austin American-Statesman newspaper reported, citing an arrest affidavit.
The "kidnapping warrants" were related to a custody battle over one of his children, the newspaper said. He had a blood alcohol level over the legal limit, breath test results showed.