Houston police on Wednesday walked back a claim that a security guard at Astroworld had been injected in the neck with a potentially opioid-laced substance, a story that had created alarm and fed conspiracy theories following Friday night's deadly crowd surge.
Houston Police Chief Troy Finner on Wednesday told reporters that the security guard was not injected with drugs but had instead been hit in the head. A Houston police spokesperson told BuzzFeed News that the incorrect information was based on what medical staff at the festival had told officers. Police later spoke to the guard themselves.
"Members of the medical team said that a male security guard had come in and said that somebody had pricked his neck," Finner said at a press conference. "We felt that it could have been something ingested. We did locate this security guard. His story is not consistent with that. He says he was struck in his head. He went unconscious. He woke up in the security tent. He says that no one injected drugs in him."
Finner originally told reporters on Saturday that when the security guard attempted to restrain crowd members, he felt a "prick in his neck." Finner said medical staff allegedly revived the man with Narcan, a medicine used to treat narcotic overdose, and medical responders observed a wound the size of a needle tip on his neck.
“The medical staff did notice a prick that was similar to a prick that you would get if somebody was trying to inject,” Finner said on Saturday.
Though that proved not to be true, the police chief's initial statements fed into already heightened concerns over "needle spiking," the act of administering drugs into someone's body via a needle, rather than slipping drugs into a drink. Police in the UK have received a number of reports recently, most of which involve young women who said they were drugged at nightclubs.
After the chief made the initial statements about the security guard, rumors spread across social media. TMZ also claimed that "someone in the crowd went crazy and began injecting people with some sort of drug" and suggested that this may have led to deaths. But, in spite of all the video and social media posts from people in the crowd, there's been no evidence that this happened. None of the 50,000 people who attended the music festival have spoken publicly about any needle spiking.
The causes of death of the eight victims have not been released yet. But what videos have shown and other attendees have said is that the crush of the crowd was overwhelming. Multiple people told BuzzFeed News they felt that they had narrowly escaped death or injury after being unable to breathe or move as the crowd closed in around them.
Madeline Eskins, a 23-year-old ICU nurse who attended the festival, told BuzzFeed News on Saturday that she performed CPR on fellow concertgoers as medical staffers were overwhelmed. In the immediate aftermath of the festival, she didn't believe the story that someone had been using a needle on people in the crowd.
"I’m reading in the news that cops are trying to say that they don’t believe this incident was related to the crowd rushing the stage, and I think that’s bullshit," she said. "They’re saying that someone was running around with a needle, injecting people with drugs. I didn’t see that. I haven’t seen a tweet or a post of anyone that actually saw that."
It was the crowd surge that led to her nearly being trampled, she said. And that's also what caused the injuries she saw.
"People were passing out because they were being trampled. They were being suffocated."