Houston Police Chief Troy Finner walked back a story that a security guard at the Astroworld Festival was injected with a mysterious substance during the tragedy that left eight people dead. Police and sources close to Astroworld had previously pushed the injection narrative when the story was beginning to unfold. Several outlets including TMZ had previously cited an Astroworld source.
On Saturday, Nov. 6, one day after the deadly incident, Finner told reporters that one “narrative” that had emerged was that the crowd surge was prompted by an individual injecting other people with drugs. At the time, Finner said authorities received a report from medical staff involving a security guard who had supposedly felt a prick in his neck while trying to restrain someone; the security guard was revived with Narcan and the medical staff said they saw evidence on his neck that he might have received an injection.
But at a press conference Wednesday, Nov. 10, Finner said, “We did locate that security guard. His story is not consistent with that. He says he was struck in his head, he went unconscious and he woke up in the security tent. He says that no one injected drugs into him. So we want to clear that part up.”
While neither Finner nor the Houston police officially confirmed the injection narrative at the time, the police chief’s Nov. 6 comments did prompt several boldfaced headlines and tweets echoing the possible theory. But one Astroworld attendee, Madeline Eskins, who spoke with Rolling Stone, was skeptical of the claim that either individual drug use, or a rogue injector, was responsible for the stampede.
“They’re trying to blame drugs,” said Eskins, who’s also an ICU nurse. “And I will level with you, I don’t think this was caused by drug use. Could it have been a contributing factor? Sure. Will they find drugs in the bodies of those passed away? Maybe. But people were getting suffocated. People were getting trampled. A lot of these trauma-based injuries. One dude had his face smashed in. He was bleeding from his nose, face, and mouth. Which I guess drugs can cause, but so can getting trampled.”
This was HPD’s first press conference since launching its investigation into Astroworld on Saturday. Aside from debunking the injection claims, Finner also reiterated that he didn’t believe the event was going to be unsafe despite a conversation he confirmed he had with Scott before his set in which he told Scott about the revved-up crowd.
“I had no reason to believe that it wasn’t going to be safe,” Finner said. “But I’m the kind of chief that I meet with people whenever I can, and that includes him. And we had a very respectful few-minute conversation on my concerns.”
Following a report that raised concerns over potential conflicts of interest for HPD’s investigation — given that the department worked the event and that Finner reportedly has a personal relationship with Scott — Finner defended Houston Police’s ability to investigate. Harris County Judge Lina Hidalgo has expressed interest in seeing an independent investigation separate from HPD’s.
“I’m really confident who we are, and I think we could do our own investigation. We’re only a few days into this, and I’m pretty confident of what our investigators are doing already,” Finner said.
Finner said HPD had 530 officers at the festival, nearly 300 more than at the last Astroworld Fest in 2019. He didn’t verify how many security officers festival organizers had brought on as HPD continues investigating. (Finner previously said there were over 700 private security guards on site.)
At the time of the conference, Finner said he didn’t know if Scott had anyone in his ear telling him about the situation while he was on stage. When asked if HPD had the ability to stop the show, Finner said the department didn’t “hold the plug.”
Regarding law enforcement’s role in the festival, Finner said its role ranged from traffic enforcement to securing the perimeter. Live Nation, he said, was responsible for securing moshpits. HPD, Finner said, told the festival’s production team that CPR was given to “one or more individuals, but he told reporters he wouldn’t be supplying information on the specific timeline of what happened and when during the tragedy, given the ongoing investigation. He reiterated the investigation will likely take several weeks or months before it would conclude.
“Our department owes it to those families to look at every aspect of how and why it happened,” Finner said.