‘This is inciting riots’: Expert weighs in on concert preparations


(NewsNation Now) — Organizers of Saturday’s tragedy-marred music event in Houston had a detailed plan they were working from. But one guest on “NewsNation Prime” told host Marni Hughes it may not have been the right plan.

Planners of the Astroworld music festival in Houston, an event that ended in numerous injuries and the deaths of eight attendees, had a 56-page document outlining contingency plans in the event of everything from severe weather to terror attacks. But Stan Kephart, a former police chief in Arizona and currently the CEO of Intelligence Based Integrated Security Systems, Inc., believes concert officials were not focused on the real danger.

One logistical problem Kephart identified on Tuesday’s program was the lax security that failed to keep out gate-crashers at the show headlined by Travis Scott.

“The people you see coming in this manner, they were free, they penetrated a soft entry point, got through,” Kephart said. “I suspect it probably was the VIP area that traditionally historically has produced free entry for people that want to get in. There were security officers there, my information has it, but there weren’t police officers there, which could have possibly slowed or stemmed the entry of free patrons.”

Kephart also suggested that the available security personnel may not have been properly optimized by planners.

“If it were properly constructed, there would be a mobile command post that would have representation from police, fire, public services, the security component,” Kephart said. “They would all be linked into the same communication system.”

Identifying and mobilizing a flex force to address problems of concertgoer movement would also be a high priority for the security expert.

“My understanding is that there were 500 police officers that were allocated for this event. And 700 security. I don’t know if those numbers are accurate. But certainly out of that 500, I would have had a flex force. I would have had an advance, had him stand down, especially equipped, specially geared to go in and keep people from a soft penetration through a VIP center or some other location.”

Kephart also pointed to issues with the design of the Astroworld stage.

“I’ve talked about this for over the last two decades, of how you design a stage. In front of the stage, with exits on either side of the stage, center stage right left, so that you can, when the crowd surges, you can push them off to the sides and [they can] exit out into the open area.”

Kephart, however, singled out one individual for contributing to the weekend’s deadly melee: Travis Scott. Citing Scott’s 2015 disorderly conduct bust at Chicago’s Lollapalooza music festival, the former police chief sees a patter in Scott’s trademark whipping of crowds into frenzies.

“He was saying things like ‘middle finger up to security right now, we want rage,'” Kephart said of the Astroworld show. “This is inciting riots. He should be arrested right there, taken off the stage. But that will result in a riot there. Sure. You can’t do that.”

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