HPD still investigating if any charges will be filed in 'accidental' Astroworld Fest deaths

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Friday, December 17, 2021
'Accidental' Astroworld Fest deaths beg question of accountability
While HPD still works to determine whether anyone involved in the tragedy is criminally responsible, one former prosecutor says they could consider these charges.

HOUSTON, Texas (KTRK) -- Houston police are still working to determine whether anyone involved in the Astroworld Festival tragedy is criminally responsible for what a Harris County medical examiner determined as an accident Thursday.

SEE MORE: Astroworld Festival victims' deaths ruled as accident due to asphyxiation, medical examiner finds

The medical examiner's report revealed all 10 concert victims were crushed to death unintentionally of "compression asphyxia."

Legal experts said this does not change much in terms of the civil lawsuits or the criminal investigation. The attorneys representing the families of the victims said the confirmation that their loved ones died from being crushed in the crowd devastated them all over again.

"It's unspeakable, and I struggle to find the words for how to address the devastation of this news," said Alex Hilliard, the attorney representing the family of 9-year-old Ezra Blount.

SEE MORE: 9-year-old trampled at Astroworld dies from his injuries, family says

Ezra is the youngest Astroworld Fest victim. His family is one of 10 dealing with new information about how their loved ones died from the Nov. 5 tragedy at NRG Park.

The attorney representing the family of 22-year-old Bharti Shahani sent ABC13 the following statement:

"Findings released Thursday by the Harris County Institute of Forensic Sciences confirm that Astroworld Festival victim Bharti Shahani suffered a horrific death as she was suffocated within a massive crowd. The medical examiner's findings confirm Bharti's family's worst fears. Their beloved daughter's last living moments were surely marked with suffering, panic, and terror. It's a horrific, inescapable image that no parent should have to endure. But that is the sad reality for the Shahanis and the nine other families that received this terrible news."

SEE ALSO: Astroworld Festival survivors demand accountability in ABC13 town hall

The Buzbee Law Firm, which is representing the family of Axel Acosta, also released a statement.

"Today Harris County released the cause of death of Axel Acosta, one of the 10 victims who died at the Astroworld concert. Axel's cause of death is listed as "compression asphyxia." The report confirms what the family already knew, which is that Axel was crushed and killed that night by the crowd, through no fault of his own. It is also important to note that Axel's blood contained absolutely no intoxicants or other like substances. Now that we have received the official results, I want to say to our police chief: Shame on you. Shame on you for perpetuating and giving credence to a silly rumor that people were being injected at the concert. In doing so, you added more pain to an already unbearably painful situation for Axel's family. Axel Acosta's family looks forward now to presenting their case in court, in front of a jury, in the hopes that all those accountable are held legally responsible, and that a preventable tragedy like this never happens again."

Stephen Aslett, a criminal defense attorney and former prosecutor, said he does not think these findings change anything

"I think we all knew that this was coming down," he said.

Aslett said all the evidence from that night pointed to crowd crush as the cause of death, and the determination that it was accidental doesn't mean anyone is off the hook.

"It's not any sort of comment on whether the deaths could have been, or should have been prevented," he said.

Aslett said investigators still have to determine whether rapper Travis Scott, Live Nation, or any other parties involved had everything necessary at the show to keep people safe, and what they knew when chaos broke out.

"You could do everything you're supposed to do," Aslett said. "If you decide to push forward with a show, even though you know people are possibly dying in the middle of it, they've got you right there."

The case could be brought to the district attorney, who would determine what, if any, charges should be filed. Aslett said they could consider negligent homicide or manslaughter.

Houston police said they will provide updates on the progress of the criminal investigation in the next few weeks as the civil cases brought by victims and their relatives continue.

WATCH: Findings in Astroworld deaths point to negligence, lawyer says

The attorney representing the family of Ezra Blount, who was the youngest victim of the Astroworld tragedy, weighed in on the medical examiner's findings for the 9-year-old and all other victims who died from the concert.