Former HPD Commander says Astroworld Festival ended his career

‘They didn’t tell me why I was being relieved of duty. I found out later it was because of the Astroworld investigation’

New documentary streams Thursday at 7 p.m. on KPRC+

HOUSTONLentini’s interview is a part of the KPRC2 Investigates documentary Astroworld: Countdown to Tragedy. The show will air on KPRC2+ at 7 p.m. on Thursday, November 3, 2022.

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A former City of Houston Police Commander said he and other first responders were bracing for chaos at the Astroworld festival tragedy nearly one year ago. Ten people died that week, hundreds were injured, and some families still don’t have answers.

“The one defining memory of that is the ambulances coming down McNee. Just a line of ambulances, watching them go by and knowing right there that my career was over,” Mark Lentini, the former HPD Commander, told KPRC2 Investigates.

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Lentini’s premonition would become his reality. He was relieved of duty a few months later, which pushed him to the decision to retire.

“They didn’t tell me why I was being relieved of duty. I found out later it was because of the Astroworld investigation,” he said.

That night, Lentini said he was working an extra job for the city, which happened to be the Astroworld Festival. The job was outside of HPD’s payroll and paid $65 an hour, nearly double the normal rate, according to emails shared with KPRC 2 Investigates.

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“From the get-go, everybody knew it was going to be a bad deal,” says Lentini. “No one wanted to be there for chaos.”

The chaos wasn’t viewed as a possibility, but anticipated.

“The department knew that there was going to be, or the potential was there for something bad to happen,” he said.

Fans began storming the gates throughout the first day. More instances would arise until Travis Scott took the stage. That’s when people were crushed, and calls for help overwhelmed those who could intervene.

“We’re so screwed. That is what kept going through my mind... ‘We are so screwed, there is no good outcome of this right now,’” Lentini tells us.

Then came the call over the radio as Lentini recalls, “We have a mass casualty event. So we knew at that point that people were dead.”

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For nearly a year, the investigation by Houston Police Department remains close to the vest. HPD Police Chief Troy Finner told the KPRC2 Investigates team that the criminal investigation remains open.

Chief Finner has declined to comment further pending the outcome of the investigation.

“There also is an internal IED investigation to investigate the conduct of the officers at the scene,” Lentini said.

When asked if he saw any misconduct, Lentini said, “Not at my level. Astroworld holds a magical place in most Houstonian’s hearts. It was a very Houston-based thing and it turned out to be a literal disaster, and I think everybody involved would be much happier if everybody else just forgot about it.”

FILE - Two people who knew an unidentified victim of a fatal incident at the Houston Astroworld concert embrace at a memorial on Nov. 7, 2021, in Houston. The families of two people who died during last year's deadly Astroworld music festival have settled wrongful death lawsuits they had filed, according to attorneys. (AP Photo/Robert Bumsted, File) (© AP Photo/Robert Bumsted)

The former commander didn’t want to share his story because he lost his job. He said it’s to help the victim’s families find peace.