They looked like rag dolls, Reece Wheeler thought.
One by one, the Astroworld Festival coordinator watched from the command center as unconscious Travis Scott fans’ were crowd-surfed out of the mosh pit and dumped into the sea of bodies raging before one of the biggest rappers in the last decade performed.
The concert hadn’t even begun.
Wheeler texted Shawna Boardman — the festival’s exterior manager of security, a minute before Scott took the stage:
“There’s panic in people’s eyes,” he wrote. “This could get worse quickly.”
“Yes,” Boardman replied.
Wheeler watched in horror over the next hour as no one stopped the concert. Wheeler texted her again:
“I would pull the plug but that’s just me,” he wrote. “I know they’ll try to fight through but I would want it on the record that I didn’t advise this to continue. Someone’s going to end up dead.”
The messages were among thousands of pieces of evidence gathered by the Houston Police Department during its investigation of the Travis Scott Astroworld festival, where 10 fans died and hundreds of others were injured on Nov. 5, 2021. The police department released its complete investigative report Friday.
The 1,266-page document comes on the heels of Scott’s fourth studio album release: “Utopia.”
The police report details for the first time how Scott perceived what was happening mid-performance and what he told police. It contains police interviews with concert promoters, security personnel and other key witnesses that never have been made public before. And it shows, in vivid detail, how no one seemed to know how to stop the tragedy as it unfolded.
Scott had come under fire immediately after the tragedy for continuing to perform for 37 minutes after police and fire officials declared the situation a “mass casualty event.”
Houston police said concert promoter Live Nation had agreed to cut the show short at 9:38 p.m., but Friday’s report indicated Scott did not leave the stage until 10:13 p.m.
Police interviewed two witnesses who said they heard Scott being told in his earpiece that the concert had to end early because there were “bodies on the ground” and that three people had died. Scott told police he didn’t learn of the deaths until after the show, and investigators were unable to understand a recording of the messages relayed to Scott because of the poor quality of the audio.
Scott’s attorney, Kent Schaffer, and Live Nation’s attorney, Neal Manne, did not immediately respond to requests for comment.
On June 29, a grand jury declined to indict Scott and five other individuals for their roles in the 2021 tragedy after a 19-month investigation. Harris County District Attorney Kim Ogg said the grand jury “found that no crime did occur, that no single individual was criminally responsible.”
The tragedy happened after Scott took the stage on the first night of the two-day festival. Victims were pinned against barriers after thousands squeezed together, investigators said at the June 29 media briefing.
A year after the tragedy, the Houston Chronicle reported no new regulations or standards regarding security, venues or event planning that could help prevent a similar fatal incident had been adopted by the city or Harris County.
The festival took place at NRG Park, which is county property managed by the Harris County Sports and Convention Corp. The complex, however, is within the jurisdiction of the Houston police and fire departments. A joint city-county task joint task force later was convened to clarify jurisdiction in cases with overlapping authority.
See here for the previous update. There’s a lot more in the story, and of course there’s the 1266-page report that HPD Chief Troy Finner has encouraged us all to “dig in” to. Houston Landing has provided some key takeaways, and the impression I get is that there was a lot of chaos, communications weren’t as clear as they could have been, and there were opportunities missed to prevent what happened. The grand jury concluded there was no criminal element, but I’ll bet that the attorneys representing the many plaintiffs who have sued Scott and LiveNation and others will be reading all this very closely. Discovery in those cases will almost surely tell us a quite a bit that we don’t yet know. The Chron has more.