13 Investigates: Astroworld's head of security, risk management not licensed with state

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Thursday, November 11, 2021
Astroworld's head of security, risk management not licensed with state
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Our investigation found the head of risk management for security personnel for Astroworld is not licensed as private security in Texas.

HOUSTON, Texas (KTRK) -- When he arrived at the Astroworld Festival, one security officer working the event told ABC13 he wasn't really sure what his job, or even who his boss was. He said he just followed along with what other security personnel, who looked more experienced, were doing.

"I did everything they asked. I tried to be as professional as I could be, because I know as a bodyguard, security, anything, when you protecting other (people), trying to make sure others are safe, your attention should be on whatever the job is, and that's really what I was (doing), try to make sure that I do the job the correct way," said the security guard.

Looking back, he said he doesn't think the venue was prepared to handle the crisis that unfolded Friday night as concert-goers became so packed, it caused some attendees to faint, become unable to breathe and get trampled on. A ninth Astroworld death was announced today.

13 Investigates found the issues may have started from the top.

Our investigation found the head of risk management for security personnel for the event is not licensed in Texas.

The security guard we spoke with said there could have been better planning. He believes the set-up for the event was poor, leaving people "boxed in" and that ending the show could have caused the outcome to be even worse.

"I believe when you plan something, plans work, so I don't believe it was executed the right way," said the security guard, who added that it was his first time working a concert.

"I don't think (they) had much care to get the plan across."

RELATED: 13 Investigates looks at the warning signs leading up to the Astroworld tragedy

We looked at the 56-page Event Operations Plan for the Astroworld Festival. It says "the festival employs experienced, licensed event security to assist with crowd management and security at the scene of an incident."

Although some security officers, like the one ABC13 spoke with, were licensed, our investigation found the head of risk management for security personnel is not a licensed private security officer or a licensed peace officer in Texas. The plan said that individual was in charge of directing all security operations, developing and implementing security policy and was responsible for "all aspects of festival safety and security."

The security director and the interior and exterior security directors also are not licensed as private security officers, according to a search of the Texas Department of Public Safety's private security license database. The database provides information on whether an individual or company is licensed for private security, either armed or unarmed, in Texas.

The Texas Commission on Law Enforcement also said those four individuals are not licensed peace officers.

The company those four individuals work for also is not licensed with the state's private security database, and their website is no longer active.

A fifth person listed as security personnel, and who works for Contemporary Services Corporation, does have a private security license in Texas. CSC is licensed with the state.

We reached out to all five individuals listed on planning documents as security personnel, but none of our multiple calls or emails this week have been returned. Calls and emails to an attorney listed on the planning document have not been returned either.

RELATED: 13 Investigates: Days after 'concert from hell,' no one taking responsibility for plan

Houston Police Department Chief Troy Finner said in 2018, there were 170 HPD officers who worked at Astroworld, and in 2019 there were 240 police officers who worked the event. It was canceled in 2020 due to the pandemic. But this year, there were even more HPD officers.

About 530 HPD officers worked the event this year. HPD tells us the organizers will pay for their officers who worked the event.

When it comes to the number of private security officers hired by event organizers, Finner said he said he is no longer confident with the staffing totals the security companies have provided.

Finner initially said Live Nation had 755 security officers, but on Thursday said that number may not be accurate.

"The challenge is you have three or four security companies and some of the records are not good, so I'm not comfortable with laying out a number. That's going to be part of the investigation," Finner said.

Live Nation did not respond to our emails, but in a statement earlier this week to ABC News said, "We continue to support and assist local authorities in their ongoing investigation so that both the fans who attended and their families can get the answers they want and deserve."

Robert Boyce, an ABC News contributor and retired Chief of Detectives with the New York Police Department, said it may be time to make sure the people directing security are well known and certified to do it.

"That's something that, maybe going forward, comes out of here," he said. "A license and a liaison with the police department, so we know who's got this event, and you know they're trained for it, and you have security experts."

Boyce said it'll be important to see where the breakdown in communication happened and if the private security and public security, such as HPD, had a command center in case a crisis occurred.

"The key here is the pre-event. Sitting down and plotting this thing out, understanding people when they come in, trouble points, putting resources there so you don't have people crashing barriers, so you have the means necessary to quell what would have been a problem," Boyce said. "Also people who go into crowds, see what issues you're having, understanding that communication is the key here in these things, everybody is on the same page to respond and take care of something before it becomes a bigger problem than it is."

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