Astroworld investigation: Can Houston PD be impartial given close relationship with Travis Scott, Astroworld?

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Travis Scott’s close relationship with the city of Houston as well as with Mayor Sylvester Turner and Police Chief Troy Finner have raised questions about the objectivity of the investigation into the deaths and injuries that occurred at the rapper’s Astroworld Festival over the weekend. 

When Scott took the stage to perform on Nov. 5, a crowd surge led to hundreds of injuries and the deaths of eight people. In the wake of the tragedy, police are looking into what caused the crowd to surge as well as any other conduct that may have led to the “mass casualty event,” including whether or not Scott should have paused or stopped the concert. 

The rapper, as well as the Astroworld Festival, are a staple in the Houston community. Scott, whose real name is Jacques Bermon Webster, was born and raised in Houston and continues to have close ties to the city. He often uses his celebrity status to be a positive influence on his old community. 

He reportedly spent the days leading up to the 2021 Astroworld Festival doing charity work and announcing partnerships with local organizations to provide support to youths in Houston.

Travis Scott performs during 2021 Astroworld Festival at NRG Park on Nov. 5, 2021 in Houston, Texas.
(Erika Goldring/WireImage via Getty Images)

He was on hand at Young Elementary School to dedicate Cactus Jack Gardens, a collaborative effort between his Cactus Jack Foundation and the Houston Independent School District, the Houston Chronicle reported. 

His foundation also partnered with Jordan Brand to unveil a mural and basketball court in Sunnyside Park, which offered a basketball clinic to 75 fifth graders; he then teamed up with the Parsons School of Design to open a new design center that will connect high school students with educational resources, training, mentorship and paths to college and workforce opportunities; and he hosted his first Fall Classic Softball Game at Minute Maid Park in support of his Cactus Jack Foundation.

His ties to the city don’t end there. At the first Astroworld Festival in 2018, Scott was given the key to the city on stage by Mayor Turner. The following day, Mayor Turner declared Nov. 18 “Astroworld Day” in honor of the rapper. In 2020, Scott’s mother was on hand alongside the mayor to pass out turkeys to underprivileged families on behalf of the Cactus Jack Foundation.

In short, Scott means more to the Houston community than merely being an immensely popular artist who holds an annual festival in the city. However, the police department is now tasked with looking into the rapper following the tragic events of Nov. 5.

Previously, the chief of the Houston Police Department, Finner, noted that he is a personal friend of Scott’s and spoke with him about the potential for danger in the Astroworld crowd prior to the show. 

“I met with Travis Scott and his head of security for a few moments last Friday prior to the main event,” he said in a statement shared on social media on Monday. “I expressed my concerns regarding public safety and that in my 31 years of law enforcement experience I have never seen a time with more challenges facing citizens of all ages, to include a global pandemic and social tension throughout the nation.”

Houston Police Department Chief Troy Finner said that he spoke with Travis Scott prior to the 2021 Astroworld Festival.
(Yi-Chin Lee/Houston Chronicle via AP)

He previously defended Scott for not stopping the show, arguing that it could have led the crowd to riot.

As a result of his close, charitable ties to the city and personal relationship with officials, questions have emerged regarding how impartial the Houston Police Department’s investigation can be. The FBI has offered its assistance in the case, but The New York Times reports that the Houston Police Department has not taken the bureau up on the offer. 

Meanwhile, Houston Police officers were on the ground at Astroworld with direct communication to first responders. Chief Finner noted during a press conference Saturday that 528 officers were present at the Astroworld Festival to supplement the 755 security officers that Live Nation reported were there for the event. 

A spokesperson for the Houston Police Department confirmed to Fox News that several other officers were moonlighting with the event to provide additional security. As a result, any investigation into what happened in the audience or a breakdown among crowd control tactics comes with some degree of the Houston Police Department investigating itself — thus leading to objectivity concerns. 

One potential remedy being pushed for by County Judge Lina Hidalgo, Harris County’s top elected official, is to have a third-party independent investigation running in parallel to the one being conducted by the Houston Police Department. 

A pedestrian cross Main Street in front of a sign announcing the cancellation of Astroworld on Saturday, Nov. 6, 2021, in Houston. Several people died and numerous others were injured in what officials described as a surge of the crowd at the music festival while Travis Scott was performing Friday night.  
(AP Photo/Michael Wyke)

Hidalgo’s office isn’t a law enforcement agency and doesn’t have authority over criminal investigations. However, there are currently no concrete plans to launch such an investigation. Rafael Lemaitre, a spokesman for the county judge’s office, told The Associated Press that Hidalgo has not decided who would conduct it. 

Hidalgo’s office did not immediately respond to Fox News’ request for comment.

Regardless of any objectivity issues, everyone involved with the case has stated that their prevailing goal is to provide the loved ones of those who lost their lives at the 2021 Astroworld Festival with any answers they’re seeking. 

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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