Six takeaways from the Houston police investigation of the Travis Scott Astroworld concert

A new Houston police report details how Travis Scott’s Astroworld festival left 10 dead and hundreds injured at the concert. The investigation found that miscommunication was rampant and led to avoidable injuries.

By Céilí Doyle, Briah Lumpkins, Angelica Perez & Matt Sledge | Houston LandingJuly 31, 2023 10:30 am

From Houston Landing:

The Houston Police Department released a 1,266-page report Friday detailing how Travis Scott’s Astroworld festival left 10 dead and hundreds injured on Nov. 5, 2021.

The document reveals the wildly contrasting narratives between what Scott and the rapper’s team perceived happened mid-performance and what the dozens of concert promoters, security personnel and other key witnesses saw unfold.

The investigation also demonstrated that miscommunication between festival staff, the production team, security, medical personnel and Scott’s manager was rampant and led to avoidable injuries.

Houston police tried to warn Live Nation

Officer Nathan Byrd told investigators that Houston police warned Live Nation the Astroworld venue was too large to handle.

The police department made recommendations to Live Nation about putting reinforced fencing in certain areas of the venue.

While Live Nation agreed to do so, Byrd said those barricades were nowhere to be found the day of the event.

Byrd said Live Nation’s plan was constantly changing leading up to the concert. After the event, Byrd said Live Nation claimed to have an emergency plan on TV news. But Byrd said no one at the police department had seen it.

Safety concerns started before Scott took stage

Safety concerns began before Scott took the stage at 9:02 p.m.

Reece Wheeler, coordinator for the Astroworld Festival, watched as fans’ unconscious bodies were lifted into the crowd and out of mosh pits minutes before Scott even took the microphone.

Wheeler texted his superior, Shawna Boardman, the festival’s exterior manager of security, at 9 p.m. Boardman took no further action.

Houston Police Department Officer Dalila Viruez informed detectives that she was told by many people “begging her to stop the music” because unconscious people on the ground were being trampled.

She tried to get on the radio multiple times and finally put a transmission over the airwaves to stop the concert around 9 p.m., according to the report.

Eleven minutes into the concert, the first chorus of someone shouting, “Stop the show,” began.

Around 9:35 p.m. Scott continued to rile up the crowd.

“Y’all know what y’all came to do,” he said. “Lets go … I want to make the motherf***ing ground shake.”

It would take another 38 minutes, several more deaths and hundreds more injuries for the concert to end.

What did Scott know, and when did he know it?

News of the disaster spread quickly on social media, but Scott’s entourage seemed to have a wholly different take on the event in its immediate aftermath.

Scott’s manager, David Stromberg, said his impression had been that the concert went well. After the show wrapped, Stromberg told Houston police “there was a lot of congratulating amongst them, the creative team, and all of the members of the organization.”

However, Steve Hupkowizc, a monitor system engineer, told police he heard the same communications Scott did throughout the show.

Hupkowizc said Scott was told “well before” Drake went on stage that the concert had turned deadly.

Autotune operator Bilal “Bizzy” Joseph, a frequent Scott collaborator, gave Scott a grim message.

“We need to hurry up and get to the Drake part of the show … three people have died,” Hupkowizc recalled Joseph saying.

Another backstage engineer heard Joseph tell Scott:

“Hey, we need to wrap this up, we got like two bodies in the ground.”

Still, the show went on and Drake took the stage, according to the engineers. Joseph claimed that he never told Scott the show had turned into a disaster, because he didn’t find out about the injuries until afterwards.

Scott’s rowdy energy inspired deadly consequences

Officer Kenneth Bradshaw was on patrol outside the venue two hours before the concert began. He confronted a woman hiding in a bush who he believed had plans to hop the fence.

He tried to discourage the woman letting her know there were five fences between her and the main event but she brushed him off stating that she wouldn’t stop.

“He motivates us,” the woman told the officer.  “This is what he wants.”

As the woman walked past Bradshaw to jump back over the fence he asked the woman who she was referring to. She clarified that she meant Travis Scott.

After the show began, Melissa Morales, who oversaw the main medical tent, said there was an overwhelming need for medical attention. One person in cardiac arrest came, and then another and another.

“What do you mean there is more?” Morales asked in disbelief. She told Houston police she often takes what concertgoers say with a grain of salt because they tend to exaggerate.

“She found that not to be the case in this event,” the detectives noted.

Medics did their best to help the ailing patients. Morales said “most if not all of them were blue in the face, unresponsive, and in her opinion, were deceased by the time they entered the medical tent.”

Scott’s camp argued with police

In one of scores of witness statements collected by investigators, Larry Satterwhite, executive assistant police chief, said he began making his way to the stage as soon as he learned that multiple people in the crowd weren’t breathing.

On his way there, Satterwhite briefly gave CPR to a comatose fan on the ground. “She was completely unconscious and her lips were blue,” Satterwhite said.

The assistant chief said he helped transport the victim to a medical tent but it was difficult — at one point someone in the crowd knocked over her stretcher. From the tent, Satterwhite made his way to the south side of the stage, jumped over a barricade and ran to the control area, where three members of Scott’s team were overseeing the concert.

“The time was 10 p.m. as I looked at my watch,” Satterwhite said. “I told the three men we had three people receiving CPR and we had to shut the show down immediately. One of the males responded by saying, ‘But they’re not dead.’ I yelled, ‘They might,’ and we had to shut down.”

One of the employees said he would relay the message to Scott but it would take time. “I did not want to risk a panic or a riot and make things worse,” Satterwhite said. At 10:08 p.m., he warned the men they had two minutes. “The song went at least a minute past the 10:10 p.m. shutoff but he did end and the crowd began to disperse from the concert area,” Satterwhite said.

Drake says he didn’t see anything amiss

In a Zoom interview with Houston police, Canadian rapper Drake said he was so wrapped up in his performance he never noticed there were any safety concerns in the crowd.

Distracted by the stage lights and concentrating on his footing after a recent knee surgery, Drake told detectives that he didn’t realize there were any injuries, let alone deaths, until he had a conversation with his manager.

This article first appeared on Houston Landing.