Investigators presented their findings earlier Thursday afternoon, according to Houston Police Chief Troy Finner, who held a press conference with Harris County District Attorney Kim Ogg to discuss the proceedings.
Ogg said alongside Scott, the headlining act, jurors no-billed Brent Silberstein, the festival manager; John Junell, senior director of global security operations for Live Nation; Shawna Boardman and Seyth Boardman, with crowd management company Contemporary Services Corporation; and Emily Ockenden with production company BWG.
Detectives on the case said the deaths were caused by the compaction of pockets of the crowd – not by a stampede or stage rush – in an area they referred to as “quadrant 3.” All victims, two under 15, died by compression asphyxia as determined by the Harris County Institute of Forensic Sciences.
The grand jury’s decision comes more than a year after the disastrous event, which ended when authorities initiated a show-stop procedure almost an hour into Scott’s performance, as outlined by the timeline presented to the public by investigators.
There were questions surrounding whether stopping the show earlier could have prevented the casualties, as initial 911 calls were received five minutes after the rapper got on stage, according to reports. However, Finner declined to comment on the matter and referred people to read the report, which he said would be released to the public.
Alicia Harvey, an assistant district attorney and the division chief of case development at the Harris County Attorney’s Office said in cases like these, their team would usually look at charges including manslaughter or criminally negligent homicide.
However, because they were evaluating things like stage design, which can’t cause someone’s death directly, they realized the charges wouldn’t fit this case, she said.
Harvey said that when the investigation made it seem unlikely they would find a voluntary act by any one person or a group of people, the only crime that remotely fit the case was endangering a child. It was not determined if this charge – or which other charges – were considered by the grand jury.
Pending litigation is likely in courts that practice civil and administrative law, Ogg said.
According to Finner, since the tragedy, the Houston Police Department and other partners have taken steps to enhance public safety at future events, which included a newly created Special Events Task Force.
Houston Mayor Sylvester Turner created this group to improve communication and public safety efforts. The task force was implemented during recent large public entertainment events, including the Livestock Show and Rodeo and the NCAA Final Four.
Along with measures to prevent duplicate calls to dispatchers during emergencies, the department has also equipped personnel working these events with additional noise reduction communication equipment – headphones that will allow public safety officials to hear emergency communication better during concerts.
The Houston Fire and Police departments and other public safety officials also received training in crowd management, Finner said.