In 2018, rapper Travis Scott founded the AstroWorld Music festival outside NRG Park in Houston, TX. Scott was also the headliner. On November 5, 2021 the festival had 50,000 people attending.
When Scott began his performance some in the crowd appeared to surge forward toward the stage and ten people were killed (and thousands injured) by being trampled or asphyxiated.
Scott has a somewhat checkered history as he had gotten into trouble in the past for allegedly inciting violence, as well as praising fans for participating in it.
On June 29, 2023 the authorities announced that a Texas grand jury had concluded that Scott and other organizers would not be criminally prosecuted for the crowd surge. The District Attorney for Harris County announced that the grand jury considered the evidence and decided not to criminally charge Scott and five other people.
District Attorney Kim Ogg stated in a news conference:
“It is tragic that 10 innocent people were killed while trying to enjoy an evening of music and entertainment, something many of us do routinely and without a second thought to our safety. But a tragedy isn’t always a crime, and not every death is a homicide,” Ogg said. He asserts that this finding does not preclude liability:
“This grand jury’s determination has no impact on the many civil lawsuits pending.” I would not completely agree that it has no impact whatsoever, because if anyone was convicted of a crime it would make the civil action that much easier to prevail on. Scott, promoters Live Nation and Scoremore must still defend hundreds of civil lawsuits for the tragedy alleging wrongful death, personal injury and negligence. Insurance would usually cover some or all of the damages in such cases and there is a good chance many of these cases will settle before trial.
Scott and the other civil defendants have denied any liability. Scott’s attorney, Ken Schaffer, issued a statement:
“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 of recent safety crises on organizers, operators and contractors―not performers.”
Schaffer also mentioned in his statement that Scott stopped his performance three times and was unaware of the events as they were unfolding (then why did he stop his performance?) I suppose he was aware of certain aspects of the dire situation but not that people were being injured and killed.
Houston Police Department Detective Mike Barrow stated that the grand jury held that no crime occurred and no single individual was criminally responsible. He concluded:
“Just to be clear, this was not a crowd stampede. This was not a stage rush. This was not a crowd surge” Barrow indicated. “This was a slow compaction or a constriction into this quadrant resulting in collapses within the crowd that covered a very small area in this overall large footprint.”
The important point to learn from this tragedy is how to avoid similar disasters in the future.