13 months after Astroworld tragedy, HPD’s investigation continues and chief makes leadership changes

Union: ‘She believes it’s Astroworld. I believe it’s probably Astroworld, but the Chief just said he just wants to go in a different direction.’

HOUSTON – As the investigation being conducted by the Houston Police Department continues into the Astroworld tragedy, KPRC 2 Investigates has confirmed members of HPD’s leadership have been moved or simply moved on following the deadly concert.

“Well, it ended my career, and it was a poorly planned disaster, obviously, or we wouldn’t be talking about it. But from the get-go, everybody knew it was going to be a bad deal,” said former HPD Commander Mark Lentini.

He said the events from that evening cost him his 28-year career with the department.

“For me, I feel I was scapegoated a little bit. I understand the anger for the families for sure,” said Lentini.

KPRC 2 Investigates obtained Lentini’s personnel file, which includes several department reviews. Many of them marked with “strong or outstanding” performances, and none in recent years raised a red flag.

In the last review provided, which took place months before he worked Astroworld as an extra-job officer, Lentini received an “outstanding” rating for “safety mindedness,” yet, he says, “an internal affairs investigation was conducted and they determined that my failure to act during the event somehow impacted the end result and I was relieved of duty, and at that point, I decided I was going to retire.”

According to Lentini, he was hundreds of yards away from the crowd and in charge of processing trespassers arrested for jumping fences.

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

Lentini is not alone, according to the Houston Police Officers Union. Union President Doug Griffith said there are others who feel they have seen their roles change within HPD as a result of the deadly festival.

“Edwards is. I talk to him on a regular basis. He believes it was because of Astroworld,” said Griffith in a reference to Daryn Edwards.

Edwards is listed as an Assistant Chief in the last review HPD provided to KPRC 2 Investigates. The review shows all boxes marked with “outstanding” reviews. However, following Astroworld, Edwards was demoted to a commander.

Assistant Chief Belinda Null also received outstanding ratings in the vast majority of her reviews, yet she was demoted to Commander post-Astroworld.

“She believes it’s Astroworld. I believe it’s probably Astroworld, but the Chief just said he just wants to go in a different direction,” said Griffith.

When KPRC 2 Investigates pointed out to Griffith that there are two current members of the department who believe their roles changed because of Astroworld, Griffith quickly responded, “I believe that is correct.”

Lentini’s take?

“It is what it is,” he said.

Of the records we examined, Lentini is the only officer current or former to go on the record.

“It doesn’t surprise me. The way that organization works now, it is dysfunctional and decisions are made based on what is going to look good and how are we going to protect the people at the top,” said Lentini.

Griffith says regardless of how roles changed within HPD’s leadership after Astroworld, Chief Troy Finner has the right to demote Assistant Chiefs without cause as they are at-will employees not covered by the same bargaining agreement as HPD officers.

“The chief hasn’t imparted his wisdom to me yet as to why certain people were moved other than they want to go in a different direction,” said Griffith.

When asked if he has pushed Chief Finner regarding changes following Astroworld, Griffith acknowledged he has not.

“Because again, I don’t know anything about the investigation,” Griffith said.

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