The chief of the Houston Police personally warned Travis Scott about crowd control just hours before eight fans died during the tragedy at Astroworld Festival, according to a report.
A source with knowledge of Houston Police Chief Troy Finner’s account of the day told the New York Times that he had visited the rapped at his trailer before he took to the stage on Friday in front of 50,000 fans in Houston, Texas.
Chief Finner, who knows Mr Scott personally, is said to have relayed his concerns about the energy of the crowd which he said would include very devoted fans.
City officials and concert organizer Live Nation had anticipated a lot of energy in the crowd, in part because the event came off the back of the pandemic when live concerts were put on pause.
Mr Scott was also known for encouraging his fans to “rage” at his shows and has been convicted of misdemeanours twice in the past for urging the crowd to rush the stage at past concerts.
In 2015, he was charged with disorderly conduct over his set at the Lollapalooza Festival in Chicago where he told fans to jump over the barricades.
Mr Scott was then arrested and charged for allegedly inciting a riot at the Walmart Arkansas Music Pavilion in 2017, which left several attendees, a security guard and a police officer injured.
Chief Finner released a statement on Monday afternoon confirming he had met with Mr Scott ahead of the event and had voiced safety concerns to him.
“I met with Travis Scott and his head of security for a few moments last Friday prior to the main event. I expressed my concerns regarding public safety,” he said.
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”.
“I asked Travis Scott and his team to work with HPD for all events over the weekend and to be mindful of his team’s social media messaging on any unscheduled events,” he said.
“The meeting was brief and respectful, and a chance for me to share my public safety concerns as Chief of Police.”
Ahead of Friday’s festival, extra police officers and private security personnel were recruited in anticipation of a lively crowd, the New York Times reported.
But, despite the preparations, the event turned to tragedy at around 9pm when Mr Scott took to the stage.
The crowd surged during the rapper’s performance in a terrifying crush that left eight people dead and hundreds more injured.
Survivors have described how they were left struggling to breathe while victims were crushed and trampled in the stampede.
The youngest fatality was 14-year-old John Hilgert - a high school freshman and promising athlete.
Officials declared a “mass casualty incident” at around 9.38pm. It then took another 37 minutes for the concert to be stopped as Mr Scott continued with his set while medics and fellow attendees tried to pull victims from the crowd and administer CPR.
Footage online shows the rapper mentioning an ambulance in the crowd before urging his fans to make “the ground shake” as he launched into his next song.
Questions are now being asked around why the event was not stopped sooner.
Houston Fire Chief Samuel Peña told the New York Times that Mr Scott was the one person who could have urged the crowd to stop and brought the show to an end sooner.
“The one person who can really call for and get a tactical pause when something goes wrong is that performer. They have that bully pulpit and they have a responsibility,” Chief Peña said.
“If somebody would have said, ‘Hey, shut this thing down and turn on the lights until this thing gets corrected’ — and that coming from the person with the mic — I think could have been very helpful.”
Mr Scott released an Instagram video on Saturday where he said he was “just devastated” by what had happened and vowed to help the victims’ families “through this tough time”.
Astroworld is a music festival launched by Mr Scott back in 2018 on the former site of the Six Flags Astroworld amusement park in the rapper’s hometown of Houston.
It was named after his album released that year with the original line-up featuring other artists including, as well as Mr Scott, Post Malone, Metro Boomin and Lil Wayne.
The annual event was put on pause last year due to the Covid-19 pandemic, with Friday kickstarting the third festival.
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