Houston Police Chief Troy Finner has walked back his claim that a security guard may have been injected with drugs at Travis Scott’s Astroworld Festival, revealing the officer’s account was “not consistent” with that version of events.
The police chief held a press conference on Wednesday afternoon to give an update on the tragedy which left eight people dead and two more fighting for their lives in intensive care.
“If you can remember, members of the medical team in the medical tent had said that a male security guard had come in and said that somebody had pricked his neck,” he said.
“We felt that it could have been something ingested. We did locate this security guard. His story’s not consistent with that.
“He says he was struck in his head; he went unconscious; he woke up in the security tent. He says that no one injected drugs into him. So we want to clear that part up.”
On Saturday, Chief Finner had told reporters that one security officer working the event “was reaching over to restrain or grab a citizen and he felt a prick in his neck”.
A medical worker on the scene said they found the unconscious staffer and noticed a prick mark on his neck.
The security guard was administered Narcan, an emergency treatment commonly used to counteract opioid overdoses, said Chief Finner.
This account fuelled speculation that illegal drugs could have played a part in the tragedy which unfolded that night.
Survivors and the family members of victims are demanding answers around what led to the deadly crowd surge and how long it took to shut the festival down after a “mass casualty event” had been declared.
Investigators have remained largely silent in the days following the tragedy, with the last media briefing by Chief Finner, Houston Mayor Sylvester Turner, Fire Chief Samuel Pena and Harris County Judge Lina Hidalgo taking place on Saturday – one day after the incident.
Houston Police and the Houston Fire Department both played a key role in the safety and security measures on the night, alongside private security firm Contemporary Services Corporation and private medical services company ParaDocs.
It emerged on Monday that Police Chief Finner had personally met with Mr Scott on Friday before the festival started.
He confirmed in a statement that he had “expressed my concerns regarding public safety” to the rapper.
The chief did not go into detail about his specific concerns but said that “in my 31 years of law enforcement I have never seen a time with more challenges facing citizens of all ages, to include a global pandemic and social tension throughout the nation”.
In Wednesday’s press briefing, Chief Finner said he “had no reason to believe [the event] wasn’t going to be safe but I’m the kind of person who speaks to people” and so he met with Mr Scott before the show.
The chief denied that he has a “close relationship” with the rapper, following reports that they know each other personally.
“I’ve met him twice,” he said, clarifying that both interactions occurred before last week’s concert.
Chief Finner urged people not to listen to “rumours, opinions and speculation” of what happened and who is accountable until all the facts are gathered.
Yet, he also said that the “ultimate authority” to shut down the event rested with Mr Scott and the promoter Live Nation.
“The ultimate authority to end the show is with production and the entertainer,” he said, adding that “the role of Live Nation was to secure what we call the mosh pits”.
A total of 530 police officers were working at the event, after increasing staffing levels from 170 at the first Astroworld in 2018 and 240 at the last event in 2019, he said.
It was not clear how many private security officers employed by Live Nation were working because “some of the records are not good”, said Chief Finner.
Chief Finner said the investigation into what led to the tragedy will take “weeks, possibly months” to determine.
He insisted authorities will be “laser focused” in finding “the facts” as he refused to comment on the timeline of what happened.
“There’s a lot of talk, lot of rumours, opinions and speculation,” he said. “It does not help – it is harmful to the families.”
He added: “There is nothing more important that the families.”
Chief Finner added that this message was also for “Houston and Harris County officials”.
His comments come after Houston Fire Chief Pena has made several comments to the media appearing to point the finger at Mr Scott and the event organisers for the tragedy.
In the days following Friday’s horror, questions have been raised over how prepared officials and event organisers were for an emergency situation unfolding.
A 56-page event plan for Astroworld, which came to light this week, contained no guidelines or preparations for dealing with a crowd surge.
Instead, it detailed instructions for events such as extreme weather, power loss or an active shooter.
Survivors of the deadly crush have also said that medical staff were overwhelmed by the tragedy and claimed that some did not appear to know how to correctly administer CPR.
A fire department union leader has also said that firefighters weren’t given radios to contact EMTs but were left to rely on using their mobile phones, at a time when networks were overloaded by the volume of users in the crowd.
Questions are being asked as to whether these delays may have cost lives as it emerged that Mr Scott continued to perform for another 40 minutes after a “mass casualty incident” was declared and promoter Live Nation agreed to shut the event down.
Mr Scott, the headline act and festival organiser, took to the stage at around 9pm.
The crowd of around 50,000 fans surged, causing festival-goers to be crushed and trampled in the rush.
Officials said that a “mass casualty incident” was declared at 9.38pm, but Mr Scott continued performing until around 10.15pm.
Chief Finner said on Wednesday that the festival was scheduled to end at around 11pm.
The rapper then went from the show to an after-party with Drake while the chaos continued at NRG Arena, according to reports.
Sources said it was at the party that Mr Scott learned that people had died.
The lawsuits are now piling up against the rapper, with more than 20 so far brought against him and promoter Live Nation.
Mr Scott has said he will pay for the funerals of the victims and has offered mental health services to survivors.
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