June 29, 2023 -HOUSTON (AP) — A Texas grand jury declined to indict rap superstar Travis Scott in a criminal investigation of a deadly crowd surge at the 2021 Astroworld festival, where some spectators were packed so tightly they could not move their arms or even breathe, his attorney and prosecutors said Thursday.
Lawyer Kent Schaffer confirmed that the Harris County grand jury had met and decided not to indict his client on any criminal charges stemming from the concert.
“He never encouraged people to do anything that resulted in other people being hurt,” Schaffer said, adding that the decision is “a great relief.”
Circumstances of the deaths limited what charges prosecutors were able to present before the grand jury, eliminating potential counts such as murder, manslaughter and criminally negligent homicide, said Alycia Harvey, an assistant district attorney with the Harris County District Attorney’s Office.
That left prosecutors to focus on possible counts of endangering a child in connection with the deaths of the two youngest concertgoers, ages 9 and 14, she added.
“”The grand jury … found that no crime did occur, that no single individual was criminally responsible,” Harris County District Attorney Kim Ogg said.
The Nov. 5, 2021, crowd surge in Houston killed 10 young festivalgoers who ranged in age from 9 to 27. The official cause of death was compression asphyxia, which an expert likened to being crushed by a car.
Roughly 300 people were injured and treated at the scene, and 25 were taken to hospitals.
Houston police and federal officials have been investigating whether Scott, concert promoter Live Nation and others had sufficient safety measures in place.
During a news conference Thursday afternoon after the grand jury’s decision, police presented various details from their investigation including a timeline of events during Scott’s performance, the location at the concert site where the deaths occurred and video showing areas where crowds of people collapsed on each other.
But Police Chief Troy Finner declined to say what the overall conclusion of his agency’s investigation was or whether police should have stopped the concert sooner. Finner said police plan to make the more than 1,000-page report in the case public so people can read all the information investigators reviewed.
“The chief of police is not going to get up here and point fingers at anybody. I respect the grand jury’s decision. I simply want people to read (the offense report), read the entire investigation and everybody will see, very, very complicated,” Finner said.
Schaffer said he feels sympathy for those who were killed at the festival and their families.
“But Travis is not responsible,” Schaffer said. “Bringing criminal charges against him will not ease their pain.”
The grand jury declined to indict five other people, including festival manager Brent Silberstein. An attorney for Silberstein did not immediately respond to an email seeking comment.
More than 500 lawsuits were filed over the deaths and injuries at the concert, including many against Live Nation and Scott. Some have since been settled.
Kevin Haynes, a Houston attorney whose firm is representing hundreds of people injured at the concert, said he was disappointed by the grand jury’s decision but the civil cases will continue “to ensure responsible parties are held accountable in the ongoing pursuit of justice.”
About 50,000 people attended the festival.
A 56-page event operations plan for the event had detailed protocols for various dangerous scenarios including a shooting, bomb or terrorist threats and severe weather. But it did not include information on what to do in the event of a crowd surge.
In November, a task force unveiled a new agreement that local officials, public safety agencies and promoters said will clearly outline the responsibilities of all parties involved in such events to ensure they are safe.
Finner said Thursday that elevated platforms are now mandatory at such shows and they will be staffed by Houston police, firefighters and others who will all have authority to halt an event if they see problems.
Similar crushes have happened all over the world, from a soccer stadium in England to the hajj pilgrimage in Saudi Arabia to Halloween festivities in the South Korean capital. Most people who who die in crowd surges suffocate.