HOUSTON – Just moments before rap superstar Travis Scott took the stage at the deadly Astroworld festival in 2021, a contractor had been so worried about what might happen after seeing people get crushed that he texted an event organizer and said, “Somebody’s going to end up dead,” according to a police report released Friday.
The texts of security contract employee Reece Wheeler were some of many examples in almost 1,300 page report where festival workers highlighted problems and warned of possible deadly consequences. The report includes transcripts of concertgoers’ 911 calls and summaries of police interviews, including one with Scott conducted days after the event.
The crowd surge at the November 5, 2021 outdoor festival in Houston killed 10 attendees ranging in age from 9 to 27. The official cause of death was compression asphyxiation, which an expert compared to being crushed by a car. Around 50,000 people attended the festival.
“Pulling tons over the rail unconscious. There’s panic in people’s eyes. This could get worse quickly,” Reece Wheeler texted Shawna Boardman, one of the private security directors, at 9 p.m., then texted: “I know, they’re going to try to fight through it, but I want it on the record that I didn’t advise this to go on. Someone is going to end up dying.”
Scott’s concert began at 21.02 In their review of video from the live stream of the concert, police investigators said that at 21.13 heard the faint sound of someone saying: “Stop the show.” The same request could also be heard at 21.16 and 21.22
In a police interview on August 19, 2022, Boardman’s lawyers told investigators that Boardman “saw things weren’t as bad as Reece Wheeler said” and decided not to share Wheeler’s concerns with anyone else.
A grand jury declined to indict anyone investigated over the event, including Scott, Boardman and four other people.
During a police interview conducted two days after the concert, Scott told investigators that although he saw a person near the stage receiving medical attention, the audience generally seemed to enjoy the show and he saw no signs of serious problems.
“We asked if at any point he heard the audience tell him to stop the show. He said if he had heard something like that he would have done something,” police said in their summary of Scott’s interview.
Hip-hop artist Drake, who performed with Scott at the concert, told police it was difficult to see from the stage what was going on in the crowd and that he did not hear concertgoers’ pleas to stop the show.
Drake found out about the tragedy later that night from his manager while learning more on social media, police said in their summary.
Marty Wallgren, who worked for a security consulting firm hired by the festival, told police that when he went backstage and tried to tell representatives of Scott and Drake that the concert had to end because people were injured and could have died, he was told . “Drake still has three more songs,” according to an interview summary.
Daniel Johary, a college student who got caught up in the concertgoers’ crush and later used his skills working as an EMT in Israel to help an injured woman, told investigators that hundreds of people had yelled for Scott to stop the music and that chants could be heard “from everywhere”.
“He said employees in the area gave the thumbs up and didn’t care,” according to the police report.
Richard Rickeada, a retired Houston police officer who worked for a private security company at the festival, told investigators that from By 8 a.m. the day of the concert, things were “pretty much in chaos,” according to a police summary of his interview. His concerns and questions about whether the concert should be held were “met with a lot of shrugs,” he said.
About 23 minutes into the concert, cameraman Gregory Hoffman radioed into the show’s production trailer to warn that “people were dying.” Hoffman was operating a large crane holding a television camera before it was overrun with concertgoers who needed medical attention, police said.
The production team called Hoffman to ask when they could get the crane back up and running.
Salvatore Livia, who was hired to direct the live show, told police that after Hoffman’s grim warning, people in the production trailer understood something wasn’t right, but “they were disconnected from the reality of (what) was happening out there.” according to a police summary of Livia’s interview.
Concertgoer Christopher Gates, then 22, told police that by the second or third song of Scott’s performance, he encountered about five people on the ground who he thought were already dead.
Their bodies were “lifeless, pale, and their lips were blue/purple,” according to the police report. Random people in the crowd – not doctors – administered CPR.
The police report was released about a month after a Houston grand jury declined to indict Scott on criminal charges related to the deadly concert. Police Chief Troy Finner had said the report was released so people could “read the entire investigation” and come to their own conclusions about the case. During a news conference following the grand jury’s decision, Finner declined to say what the overall conclusion of his agency’s investigation was or whether police should have stopped the concert sooner.
The report’s release also came on the same day Scott released his new album, “Utopia.”
More than 500 lawsuits were filed over deaths and injuries at the concert, including many against concert promoter Live Nation and Scott. Some has since been settled.