"We had a large crowd," Acevedo said early Thursday morning. "I just thank God that a lot of the folks had already been pushed on the sidewalk or this could have been a lot worse."
Austin police shut off traffic to about a square mile of downtown for five days during the festival, turning normally busy roads into a large pedestrian mall to help festivalgoers reach dozens of music venues.
Police said the incident started when an officer on a drunken-driving patrol tried to stop the silver Toyota sedan at a gas station a few blocks away. The car took off, weaving between parked cars then driving at high speed the wrong way down a one-way street.
The driver rammed through police barriers — three wooden pieces held up by metal poles — set up on Red River Street on the northeast edge of the entertainment district near The Mohawk nightclub, where multiple acts were to perform Wednesday night. The bands X and TEEN had just wrapped up, and rapper Tyler the Creator was scheduled to perform at 1 a.m.
An officer had to jump out of the way of the driver, Acevedo said at Thursday's news conference.
"We will review our procedures always, we always look at that. But understand something, when somebody acts intentionally, it's very difficult to stop. You have a car here. You have a police officer that was forced to jump out of the way," he said.
Scott Jakota, a musician from Indiana in town to play SXSW, told the Austin American-Statesman he was one of the first people hit outside The Mohawk. He said the driver "gunned" the car.
"I was thrown up in the sky," Jakota said.
Overlooking the street, 28-year-old Ally Hulton from Los Angeles, was on a balcony of her friend's apartment when she saw the car driving "at full speed" before hitting someone.