Travis Scott Show Security Staffing is Unclear, Chief Says


Ezra Blount, 9 years old, posing outside the Astroworld music festival by Travis Scott in Houston.
This photo provided by Taylor Blount shows Ezra Blount, 9, posing outside the Astroworld music festival in Houston. Ezra was injured at the concert during a crowd surge. (Courtesy of Taylor Blount via AP)

Organizers of the Astroworld music festival have not provided investigators with clear records about private security personnel working the grounds when a massive crowd surge during the set of headliner Travis Scott led to at least eight deaths, Houston’s police chief said Wednesday, November 10.

By Juan A. Lozano, Associated Press

It was up to Live Nation Entertainment, the show’s promoter, to secure two mosh pits in front of the stage on the Friday, November 5, night at the sold-out festival of 50,000 people, Houston Police Chief Troy Finner said at a news conference. He described staffing records handed over by organizers as “just not good” but emphasized that he was not placing any blame.

But key questions are still unknown five days after the tragedy, which left hundreds of other concertgoers injured, including at least two who were still in critical condition. Finner said police told organizers to shut down the performance when fans in the crowd were administered CPR. But he repeatedly declined to provide timelines, making it unclear at what point that order came in Travis Scott’s roughly hourlong set, and how much longer the show lasted after the directive was given.

Travis Scott performs at Astroworld Festival at NRG park on Friday, Nov. 5, 2021 in Houston. Several people died and numerous others were injured in what officials described as a surge of the crowd at the music festival in while Scott was performing. Officials declared a “mass casualty incident” just after 9 p.m. Friday during the festival where an estimated 50,000 people were in attendance, Houston Fire Chief Samuel Peña told reporters at a news conference.(Jamaal Ellis/Houston Chronicle via AP)

“When you say authority and ability to end the show, we don’t hold the plug. But it’s always in the plan, it’s always a discussion of how that would happen,” he said. “We had those discussions with the promoters.”

Scott’s attorneys on Wednesday, November 10, pointed to an operational plan for the event that states only the festival director and executive producers have the authority to stop the show, “neither of which is part of Travis’s crew.”

“Investigations should start proceeding over finger-pointing so that together, we can identify exactly what transpired and how we can prevent anything like this from happening again,” attorney Edwin F. McPherson said in a statement.

Finner also forcefully defended his department’s ability to handle the criminal investigation on its own, rejected calls for an outside probe and said he did not have a close relationship with Scott, who is from Houston and founded the festival.

Finner said he expressed safety concerns to Scott before the Friday night show but did not go into detail. He said he has only ever spoken with Scott twice.

“I had no reason to believe that it wasn’t going to be safe,” Finner said. “But I’m the kind of chief that I meet with people whenever I can, and that includes him. We had a very respectful, few minute conversation on my concerns.”

Speaking to reporters for just the second time since the tragedy, Finner was defensive at times and criticized what he described as rumors and speculation surrounding what happened.

About 530 Houston police officers worked the festival, more than twice as many as when the festival was last held in 2019, according to Finner. He repeatedly cautioned that the investigation was still in the early stages and said he would not “cast blame” on any organization.

The Astroworld main stage where Travis Scott was performing Friday evening where a surging crowd killed eight people, sits full of debris from the concert, in a parking lot at NRG Center on Monday, Nov. 8, 2021, in Houston. ( Mark Mulligan/Houston Chronicle via AP)

Todd Mensing, another attorney representing Scott, told The Wall Street Journal on Wednesday, November 10, that Travis Scott only found out about injuries and deaths in the crowd after the show.

At least two concertgoers remained in critical condition Wednesday. Officials have not disclosed details about the fans who have been hospitalized since Friday, November 5, but the family of a 9-year-old boy who attended the concert with his father has said the child was in a medically induced coma after sustaining injuries to his heart, lungs and brain.

“How did this happen? That is a question that remains on all of our minds,” Houston Mayor Sylvester Turner said earlier Wednesday, November 10. “How did this happen? Where were the missteps? Where were the failures? Where were the gaps? We owe it to the family members, all of those who attended and quite frankly the city as a whole, to the first responders, all of them, how did this happen?”

Turner read the names of the eight people who died before pausing a City Council meeting for a moment of silence. The victims ranged in age from 14 to 27 and came from Texas, Illinois and Washington state, according to authorities.

Finner said there was no evidence that a security guard near the crowd had unknowingly received an injection during the show, despite reports.

The festival grounds and stage where Travis Scott performed have yet to be disassembled as authorities and attorneys representing the injured and their families continued combing the area. The festival was held on a parking lot that is part of NRG Park, a complex consisting of stadiums, an arena and a convention center.

The Astroworld main stage where Travis Scott was performing Friday evening where a surging crowd killed eight people, sits full of debris from the concert, in a parking lot at NRG Center on Monday, Nov. 8, 2021, in Houston. ( Mark Mulligan/Houston Chronicle via AP)

Bernon Blount said his son and 9-year-old grandson, Ezra, attended the festival together but became separated during the crowd surge. He said Tuesday, November 9, that the child was in a medically induced coma at a Houston hospital.

“I’m angry because it’s disrupted our family, and this could have been avoided if people in positions of power had done the right thing,” Blount said.

Texas Gov. Greg Abbott on Wednesday, November 10, announced the formation of a task force to develop concert safety recommendations, which he said would “ensure that the tragedy that occurred at the Astroworld Festival never happens again.”

Experts say crowd surge deaths happen because people are packed into a space so tightly that they can’t get enough oxygen. It’s not usually because they’re being trampled.

Visitors cast shadows at a memorial to the victims of the Astroworld concert in Houston on Sunday, Nov. 7, 2021. (AP Photo/Robert Bumsted)

Associated Press writer Paul J. Weber in Austin, Texas, and Jake Bleiberg in Dallas contributed to this report.

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