Travis Scott and several organizers and workers behind the Astroworld Festival will not face criminal charges following the crowd rush that killed 10 people who attended the festival 19 months ago, a Grand Jury in Houston determined on Thursday.
The decision comes well over a year after the tragedy, where along with the 10 deaths, hundreds of others said they were injured after festival-goers piled up to the stage toward the beginning of Scott’s headlining set on November 5, 2021. Attendees said they were stuffed together during the set and struggled to breathe, and others were trampled amid the chaotic scene. Scott briefly paused his set before continuing the performance and finishing the show after about an hour.
The Grand Jury issued six no-bills on Thursday; also avoiding criminal charges were festival manager Brent Silberstein, John Junell of Live Nation, security planners Seyth and Shawna Boardman, and Emily Ockenden, who was an employee at event production company BWG until last year.
Scott’s attorney, Kent Schaffer, said in a statement: “My client Travis Scott will not be charged with criminal charges or any wrongdoing for his involvement with AstroWorld festival. Today’s decision by the Harris County District Attorney confirms what we have known all along — that Travis Scott is not responsible for the AstroWorld tragedy.”
“This is consistent with investigative reporting by numerous media outlets and federal and state government reports that have squarely placed the onus for event safety crises on organizers, operators and contractors — not performers,” Schaffer continued. “While waiting patiently for the District Attorney’s decision to not file charges, Travis Scott has been inaccurately and wrongly singled out, despite stopping the show three separate times and being unaware of the events as they were unfolding. Now that this chapter is closed, we hope for the government efforts to focus on what is most important — stopping future heartbreaking tragedies like AstroWorld from ever occurring again.”
As District Attorney Kim Ogg said during a press conference on Thursday: “Our job is narrow. It’s to determine if this tragedy, this absolute disastrous, horrific event, involved criminal activity by anyone at the top to the bottom, or in between.”
Ogg explained the protocol for the grand jury’s process, noting that they needed to find probable cause of criminal conduct to issue charges, which is a step below the “beyond a reasonable doubt” standard juries are instructed to abide by to issue a conviction. In this case, Ogg said, the jury couldn’t reach that standard.
Houston police and federal officials have been investigating whether Scott, concert promoter Live Nation, and others had sufficient safety measures in place. During a press conference on Thursday, the lead investigator on the case explained the tragedy’s details.
“A large gathering of participants and concertgoers were already in place at stage one. It was a very anticipated event to see the lead performer,” the investigator said. The remaining participants at SZA’s earlier set moved to the main stage for Scott, he said, “at which point this area became more crowded leading to further compaction.”
“Just to be clear, this was not a crowd stampede. This was not a stage rush. This was not a crowd surge,” the investigator continued. “This was a slow compaction or constriction and to this quadrant resulting in collapses within the crowd that covered a very small area.”
Another of the investigators laid out a timeline of key developments that happened the night of the tragedy. The festival opened at 2 p.m., and SZA’s show ended at 8:42. Scott’s set began at 9:02 p.m., and the first 911 call referencing distress in the crowd came five minutes later, the second investigator said. By 9:30 HPD had received reports of multiple people entering the medical tent and multiple people passed out near the front of the stage. At 9:39, HPD began the show stop procedure, and the show ended at 10:12.
While they aren’t facing criminal charges, Scott and promoters Live Nation and ScoreMore still face billions of dollars in potential damages over hundreds of civil claims alleging wrongful death, personal injuries, and negligence. Those have been wrapped into one large multidistrict litigation in Harris County.
Several attorneys representing plaintiffs in the civil trial either didn’t respond to requests for comment or declined requests citing an ongoing gag order that bars the attorneys from speaking about the case to the media.
Scott has denied the allegations regarding his responsibility over the disaster, previously motioning for the suits to be dismissed. Festival promoters Live Nation and its subsidiary Scoremore also motioned to dismiss the suits.
Schaffer told Reuters earlier Thursday that he didn’t expect for Scott to face charges. “Nothing Travis did or failed to do fits within the Texas criminal code,” he said.
Scott has been steadily coming back into the spotlight since, teasing his next album Utopia since last year, recently posting billboards around Los Angeles hinting toward a July release.
Houston Police Chief Troy Finner said during Thursday’s press conference that the police department planned on releasing its criminal investigation to the public in the coming weeks. He avoided getting into specifics regarding questions about the tragedy such as what the driving causes were, or how the show stoppage protocol worked from when it was declared to when the show ended half an hour later. He encouraged reading the report when it is released for more clarity.
I’m not going to speculate on it, It’s complicated. When you when you read it and you open it up, you will have some appreciation of what I’m saying,” he said. “But most importantly, pray for these families. No matter what the resolution at the end, we’re all feeling really bad for the families. And we want to do everything we can to get them to some sense of closure, some sense of peace. And however we get there, we’re gonna get there and then we’re gonna pray our way there, I know that.”
From Rolling Stone US