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Grand jury declines to charge Travis Scott and others over Astroworld tragedy

By | Published on Friday 30 June 2023


A grand jury in Harris Country, Texas has declined to indict Travis Scott in relation to the Astroworld tragedy that occurred in November 2021. Jurors likewise concluded that there we insufficient grounds to pursue criminal charges against five other people involved in organising the event.

Ten people died and hundreds more were injured when a crowd surge occurred during Scott’s headline set at the Houston-based festival he founded, which took place at the city’s NRG Park on 5 Nov 2021.

A criminal investigation got underway almost immediately, with police investigating whether the actions of Scott and various other people working on the Live Nation-promoted festival contributed to the crowd surge.

That investigation was completed last week and resulted in a report that runs to over 1000 pages. The report will be made public in the next few weeks, though Mike Barrow, a detective with the Houston Police Department, has already revealed some of the police force’s findings to media.

According to Houston Public Media, Barrow said that police have determined that all ten deaths occurred within a specific section of the main stage area at the Astroworld festival, referred to as ‘quadrant three’ by investigators.

That quadrant was “dangerously compacted” with people hours before Scott’s headline performance began, and that compaction was made worse after a performance on another stage ended and more people came to the main stage “specifically funnelling into quadrant three”.

In terms of the timeline of the tragedy, HPD says that Scott’s performance began at 9.02pm and that the first 911 call referencing distress in the crowd was made just five minutes later.

By 9.32pm, police had received reports of multiple people entering the festival’s medical tent, and also that people had begun climbing onto camera platforms positioned around the main stage area urging camera operators to message production staff to stop the show.

By 9.39pm, the Houston Fire Department had initiated an ambulance task force and the first victim was being transported to the hospital, and at 9.47pm the SouthEast Texas Regional Advisory Council declared a mass casualty incident. However, it wasn’t until 10.12pm that Scott’s performance was ended.

The job of the grand jury was to review all of the evidence gathered by the HPD and then decide whether any crimes had been committed by key people involved in the event. Other than Scott, that included Festival Manager Brent Silberstein and Safety Director Seyth Boardman, as well three others: John Junell, Shawna Boardman and Emily Ockenden.

Jurors deliberated for several hours yesterday before deciding there were no grounds for criminal charges – what is referred to as a “no bill” decision.

Commenting on the decision, Harris County District Attorney Kim Ogg told reporters: “Our investigators and prosecutors gave everything they had to ensure that the grand jury could reach the truth of the matter. That is our job: to find justice, even when and in the midst of a terrible tragedy. And in this case, that justice was no bill”.

Speaking for Scott, lawyer Kent Schaffer told reporters that his client had been working with investigators ever since the tragedy occurred. Welcoming the grand jury decision, he told Law360: “The threat of criminal prosecution has been hanging over his head for over a year and a half, and he is now free to get on with his life and career and return to performing and making music”.

Meanwhile, a legal rep for Silberstein, Chris Downey, confirmed to Law360 that the investigation had been an “emotionally stressful” time for his client. He added that Silberstein is “comfortable he did everything he could to run a safe festival”, adding: “We’re glad that the grand jury didn’t see that he did anything criminally wrong”.

While the criminal investigation has not led to any charges, hundreds of lawsuits in relation to the crowd surge incident continue to go through the motions. Those lawsuits – which have been grouped together by the courts – target various defendants, but in particular Scott and Live Nation.

The families of two of those who died – Axel Acosta and Brianna Rodriguez – have already settled their cases, but the rest of the litigation is currently ongoing.