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Travis Scott criticised over his team’s response to Astroworld police report

By | Published on Tuesday 1 August 2023


Travis Scott and his legal team have been dubbed “stunningly tone deaf” for criticising the timing of the publication of a police report about the Astroworld tragedy. The Houston Police Department made that lengthy document available on Friday, just as Scott released his new album ‘Utopia’, his first since the fatal crowd surge that occurred during his headline set at the 2021 edition of the festival he founded.

On Friday, a representative for Scott told TMZ: “The timing of the Houston Police Department report’s release, coinciding with the launch of Travis Scott’s highly anticipated album, is anything but coincidental … it is outrageous that HPD has chosen to resort to tactics that attempt to discredit Travis and his team, casting doubt on how the unfortunate events at Astroworld actually transpired while deflecting blame from their own critical failures”.

Responding to those remarks, a lawyer working for the family of one of those who died during the crowd surge, ten year old Ezra Blount, said in his own statement to TMZ: “For an artist making his living with music, these are stunningly tone deaf comments about this preventable tragedy that took so many lives and injured so many”.

Ten people died and hundreds more were injured during the crowd surge at Astroworld 2021, which took place in Houston’s NRG Park. A criminal investigation got underway almost immediately, with the city’s police department investigating whether the actions of Scott and various other people working on the Live Nation-promoted festival contributed to the crowd surge and therefore the fatalities.

That investigation was completed last month, with HPD’s report then going to a grand jury to assess whether any crimes had been committed. After several hours of deliberations, the grand jury concluded that there were no grounds for criminal charges against Scott or any other people working on the show.

Police confirmed at the time that their full report would be made public in the near future. And all 1266 pages of it were published last week, albeit with some redactions.

Though, even before the report’s publication, the HPD had already set out a timeline of the events that unfolded during Scott’s Astroworld set. They confirmed that the first 911 call referencing distress in the crowd was made just five minutes after the rapper took to the stage shortly after 9pm.

Police became aware that multiple people were entering the festival’s medical tent around 9.30pm, with the first victims being transported to hospital ten minutes later. A mass casualty incident was declared at 9.47pm. However, Scott’s performance didn’t end until 10.12pm, after a guest spot from Drake.

Ever since the tragedy occurred there has been much discussion as to why Scott’s set wasn’t stopped sooner; who on stage and among the festival’s production team were aware of the scale of the problems; and who was involved in the decision to let the show continue.

Since the publication of the police report last week, most attention has fallen on the police interviews with Scott and Drake, as well as statements made by some members of the crew working backstage. The latter seem to contradict the version of events presented by the two musicians regarding what information was available to them and their direct team as the crowd surge was unfolding.

Scott has insisted throughout that he was not aware of what was happening in the crowd while he performed his headline set. He did pause his performance a few times after spotting isolated issues in the crowd, but he did not know about the crowd surge. Even when he was told to cut his set short, he said, he was not informed that an emergency situation was underway.

According to the Texas Tribune, he told police that for much of his set he was “in a trance” and fully focused on his performance. And, he added, in normal circumstances if something drastic was happening someone would “come hit the button or pull the plug”.

Drake likewise said he had no knowledge of any crowd issues, telling police he was “whisked onto and off the stage” for his guest performance, and that the stage lights made it very hard to see what was happening in the audience.

However, a monitor system engineer, Steve Hupkowizc, who could hear the on-stage communications during Scott’s performance, told police that more information was available to the rapper and his team as events were unfolding. He claimed that autotune operator Bilal ‘Bizzy’ Joseph told Scott mid-set that they needed to get to the Drake section of the performance as quickly as possible because “three people have died”.

Another backstage engineer reported hearing a similar message being relayed, except he recalled it as “we need to wrap this up, we got like two bodies in the ground”.

Police also spoke to an executive at security company B3 Risk Solutions, Marty Wallgren, who talked about Scott’s reputation for encouraging his audiences to behave recklessly. The police report notes: “Of all the shows and genres he has seen, he has never seen anything like the environment that Travis Scott creates. Going into the show, he expected ‘mayhem'”.

Wallgren also told police that he had a bad feeling about the entire focus of the festival falling on to Scott’s headline set, with another key stage being closed ahead of the performance. That would inevitably result in a significant number of people rushing to the already crowded main stage. But, he said, “nobody wanted to tell Travis no, or that it was a bad idea to set up the festival with the stages like they were”.

Scott’s reps – as well as criticising the timing of the publication of the HPD report – have also hit back at those focusing on statements made by the likes of Hupkowizc and Wallgren in the police document. After all, they point out, the grand jury based their decision that there were no grounds for criminal proceedings on this very report.

The statement from the Scott camp to TMZ on Friday continued: “Travis Scott and his team were, as anticipated, fully cleared of any wrongdoing associated with the Astroworld tragedy by a grand jury based on the very report released today”.

They went on: “Travis’s commitment to his audience’s safety and well-being is well-documented. As reported countless times, he actively stopped the show three separate times. Contrary to the HPD report’s inaccuracies, the concert did end at the exact time communicated to Travis”.

“Meanwhile, Houston police officers present at the event did not intervene during the unfolding situation. They were observed throughout the show standing by idly, buying merch and even filming the concert in its entirety”.

The statement concluded: “We encourage the Houston PD to make peace with the fact that Travis Scott and his team were found innocent of any wrongdoing and to focus on what really matters – making sure tragedies like Astroworld never occur again under their watch”.

Although there will be no criminal charges in relation to the Astroworld tragedy, there are hundreds of lawsuits working their way through the system filed by those who were injured during the crowd surge and the families of those who died. Including the family of Ezra Blount.

Their lawyer, Bob Hilliard, commenting further of how the Scott team has responded to the publication of the police report, told TMZ: “Of course they would only focus on how the report’s release date hurts their album sales instead of the facts contained inside of the report”.

Hilliard reckons that the report contains “damning” information about how Astroworld was planned and run.

He added: “For Mr Scott to allow his lawyers and spokespeople to make the reckless and untrue statement that just because he was not indicted means he’s blame-free is arrogant and insulting to the memory of ten year old Ezra as well as the other victims of this terrible night”.