Houston Police Chief Troy Finner walked back his previous claims on Wednesday that a security guard was drugged at Travis Scott’s Astroworld festival by getting pricked on the neck with a needle.
On Saturday, Finner said that medical staff reported treating the security guard with Narcan, a drug used to reverse the effects of a narcotics overdose. He also said that first responders observed what appeared to be a needle mark on the anonymous guard’s neck.
The guard was working at Scott’s concert in NRG Park, where at least eight people died and hundreds more were injured as a result of a massive crowd crush that provided little opportunity for medics to provide help and attendees to escape.
“In terms of the security guard that I discussed on Saturday, if you can remember, members of the medical team, medical tent, said that a male security guard had come in and said that somebody had pricked his neck, and we felt that it could’ve been something injected,” the police chief said at a Wednesday press conference.
“We did locate that security guard ― his story’s not consistent with that. He says he was struck in his head, he went unconscious, he woke up in the security tent. He says no one injected drugs in him, so we want to clear that part up.”
Finner said he did not have any proof that narcotics were being administered ― either to security guards or attendees ― when he announced it on Saturday, and that they were just allegations. It’s unclear why he released the initial statement about the security guard without first investigating the startling claim.
“I’ve seen people die. Nothing could have prepared me for what I witnessed last night,” Madeline Eskins, an ICU nurse who attended Scott’s show, told The Daily Beast on Saturday. “I was about to tell my boyfriend to tell my son that I loved him, because I really thought that I was not gonna see him again. And before I could say anything, I fainted.”
Eskins told Radar Online that it was an unlikely and far-fetched theory that injuries or crowd surge stemming from the concert were caused by a person randomly pricking people with a syringe.
“This is a lie,” she said. “They trying to cover their asses. Nobody who actually was there has said this shit. Nobody saw this shit.”
Finner said that Houston police will continue its investigation into the chaos that descended at Scott’s concert, despite about 530 police officers having worked as security for the event. There have been calls for an independent investigation ― including from county commissioners and Judge Lina Hidalgo ― due to Houston and Harris County officials having helped organize the event with Live Nation and Scott.
“I’m really confident in who we are at HPD. I think we can do our own investigation,” the chief said. “We investigate ourselves all the time. What if we find out that HPD is really not the target?
“This ‘independent investigation’ is this new fashion word. Independent investigation for what, where are we right now? We’re nowhere right now.”
Finner said that police “don’t hold the plug” on the authority to end the show, pointing that responsibility with the production and the entertainer. But when asked who specifically had security jurisdiction at the concert, the chief named the ranking Houston police officer at the site.
More than any allegations of drugs and needle-pricking, safety experts have pointed to crowd management and the role of security in both the prevention and control of potentially violent incidents like Friday night. Crowd management requires security and event organizers to have an understanding of the venue’s design and operational features, as well as the characteristics of the crowd attending the event.
Neither Houston police nor Live Nation has answered HuffPost’s questions about how many members of security were near the stage, how many medics were present, if any security members were specifically trained in crowd management and what the barricade configuration looked like.