Over the weekend, reports surfaced on social media that Phish fans had been attacked during the band’s Saturday night concert at The Gorge in George, Washington. With rampant speculations and second-hand information circulating on social media and various message boards, Live For Live Music held off on reporting about the attacks until we were able to confirm the known facts with official sources.
In the past few days, we have spoken with law enforcement from the Grant County Sheriff’s Department and staff from The Gorge, and have reached out to the band and Live Nation for comment. We will continue to update this article as we get more information. Check out a summary of new updates below, or read the full updates in their entirety in the appropriate sections.
- Update to “From The Grant County Sheriff’s Department” (Thursday, 7/26/18): The Grant County Sheriff’s Department notes that no suspects have been identified and that they have identified and questioned persons involved in dealing nitrous, including the man with a swastika tattoo whose picture has been disseminated on social media.
- Creation of “From Live Nation” Section (Thursday, 7/26/18): During the evening of Wednesday, July 25th, Live Nation PNW issued a brief statement via its Facebook page. Live Nation PNW acknowledged it was working with the Grant County Sheriff’s Department in the investigation and noted that “Live Nation’s top priority is the security and safety of our fans.” We’ve created a new section in this article to continue to track statements from Live Nation, and the full update is posted there.
- Update to “From Live Nation” (Friday, 7/27/18): Live Nation posts a statement from its official Twitter (rather than a regional account), which reaffirms that fans’ safety is Live Nation’s top priority and the company has a no-tolerance policy for violence at any venue. The company also “strongly condemn[s] the terrible assault” and notes that they are continuing to work with the Grant County Sheriff’s Department.
- Update to “From The Grant County Sheriff’s Department” (Saturday, 7/28/18): During the afternoon of Friday, July 27th, the Grant County Sheriff’s Department issued another update via their official Twitter account. The department noted that they have not found evidence of bias speech or gestures during the attacks. The police also noted that they have “No suspects yet” and that they’re “Hoping someone will come forward who saw either suspect.”
- Update to “From The Grant County Sheriff’s Department” (Saturday, 7/28/18): The Grant County Sheriff’s Department responds to a user on Twitter when asked about existing links to the nitrous dealers with SS tattoos on lot. In the response, the department confirms that “As of right now, we have no witnesses who can describe either assailant.”
- Update to “From The Grant County Sheriff’s Department” (Tuesday, 7/31/18): Grant County Sheriff’s Department details all known knowledge about known nitrous dealers at The Gorge.
From The Grant County Sheriff’s Department
UPDATE (Thursday, 7/26/18): From Kyle Foreman, the public information officer at the Grant County Sheriff’s Department, whose jurisdiction includes The Gorge, via email:
No suspects have been identified. We’re exploring all possibilities but have developed no links. The persons who were involved with the nitrous (including the one seen on social media with the swastika tattoo) were identified and questioned by deputies but not arrested. None of those persons can be linked to the assaults. We’re still asking concert goers to let us know if they witnessed either of the assaults and can describe the suspects.
The Grant County Sheriff’s Department also issued a new tweet, echoing Foreman’s email that the investigation is still underway with no suspects and that witnesses should come forward and contact the police.
Assaults at the #Phish concert at the Gorge: No suspects yet. All possibilities being explored but no links found. If you saw one of the assaults happen, contact us. 509-762-1160, email@example.com. @andrew_michels @jambase @L4LM
— Grant County Sheriff (@GrantCoSheriff) July 26, 2018
UPDATE (Saturday, 7/28/18): On Friday, July 27th, the Grant County Sheriff’s Department posted another update on their Twitter account. In the tweet, the police noted that “No bias speech heard or gestures seen during either assault,” acknowledging many fans concerns surrounding the potential racial motivation behind the assaults. The department also noted that they still do not have any suspects and are “hoping someone will come forward who saw either suspect”—implying that the police have confirmed that they are searching for two different perpetrators. The department is also still on the search for more witnesses and is encouraging those who saw the crimes to come forward.
Assaults at #Phish at the Gorge: No bias speech heard or gestures seen during either assault. No suspects yet. Hoping someone will come forward who saw either suspect. Contact us at 509-762-1160, firstname.lastname@example.org. @andrew_michels @JamBase @L4LM
— Grant County Sheriff (@GrantCoSheriff) July 27, 2018
UPDATE (Saturday, 7/28/18): In response to a Twitter user on Saturday afternoon, the Grant County Sheriff’s Department once again addressed the belief among some fans that the perpetrators were the nitrous dealers with SS tattoos circulated in photos on social media. In response to @ewangs, the department confirmed that no witnesses have come forward who can physically describe either of the perpetrators. They also reaffirmed that at this point, there are no verifiable links between the men with the white supremacist tattoos and the attacks.
We continue to follow up on all leads. As of right now, we have no witnesses who can describe either assailant. We also have no verifiable links. Both victims suffered severe injuries, and we’re working to find who committed the assaults.
— Grant County Sheriff (@GrantCoSheriff) July 28, 2018
UPDATE (Tuesday, 7/31/18): After being queried by Greg M. Schwartz of PopMatters via email, Kyle Forman, the public information officer at the Grant County Sheriff’s Department, responded in a media email thread with a detailed listing of known information about nitrous dealers at The Gorge as well as rumors that Live Nation security had “called in neo-nazi pals as enforcers after a scuffle with the ‘nitrous mafia’ on Friday.”
As of this morning here is what we know about that allegation:
1. There were several groups of persons selling nitrous at the campground and on the path between the campground and the venue.
2. One of the groups included several white men and the persons with the swastika tattoos whose pictures have been shared by concert goers on social media. These men was contacted by security on Sunday and two members of that group were trespassed/ejected by security. These men were not arrested. Their nitrous cylinders were taken by security.
3. Another group included several black men who were caught on Sunday selling nitrous filled balloons along the path from the campground to the venue. These men were also trespassed/ejected by security. These men were not arrested. Their nitrous cylinders were taken by security.
4. One other grouped which included several black males was observed selling nitrous but security and law enforcement was not able to catch them in the act.
5. Thus far we have no information that there was a scuffle on Friday between security and any groups or persons selling nitrous balloons. If a physical altercation happens involving security, they are typically very quick at calling us for assistance.
6. We’ve found no evidence that neo-Nazis were called in by security as enforcers. The alleged neo-Nazis contacted all had IDs from east coast cities. There was no established link between security and the alleged neo-Nazis, aside from security trespassing/ejecting them on Sunday.
7. The alleged neo-Nazis were at the concert and were caught selling nitrous filled balloon. This sales of balloons seems to be why they were there.
8. We currently have no witnesses who can describe either of the assailants involved in the two assaults.
Regarding the “nitrous mafia”, our experience is that nitrous sales are present at Phish concerts. Sheriff’s deputies at the Gorge tried their hardest to support security in catching and evicting nitrous sellers, but I am told there was a great deal of nitrous sales activity along Shakedown all weekend. Nitrous sellers in some cases were very organized in operating their businesses. Many employ counter-surveillance teams to alert the persons selling the balloons. When the counter-surveillance team sees security or law enforcement approaching one of their sellers, they alert the seller who typically just abandons the nitrous cylinder and walks away into the crowd before security or law enforcement can reach them.
I have been told that over 80 cylinders were collected by security this year, most of which were abandoned by tipped-off sellers. I was also told that last year over 160 nitrous cylinders were taken by security.
One thing which deputies did experience was the gratitude of concert-goers. I am told scores of concert-goers took the time to say thank you to deputies for their presence and deterrence of misbehavior.
Foreman also addressed the tone the police department has taken with some its updates. When prompted about Twitter statements with language like “We’ve looked into that rumor. It’s not true” and “There [are] a lot of rumors. That’s one of them. There is no truth to it,” the department representative acknowledged that “The proper response would have been “There is no evidence so far to support this allegation.”
We spoke with Kyle Foreman, the public information officer at the Grant County Sheriff’s Department, whose jurisdiction includes The Gorge. The Grant County Sheriff’s Department has established that during Phish’s run at The Gorge this weekend, there were two separate assaults that happened involving two different victims, both of whom were hospitalized following the attacks. Foreman was unsure of their condition at the time we spoke to him.
He also explained that both assaults took place in two completely different areas of the concert and that both victims did not seem to know one another or be associated in any way. He also acknowledged that while there were similarities to the incidents, the police were working to confirm that these attacks were connected.
The GCSD has a detective assigned to the case, who is interviewing the victims. He also explained that the police department has been reading what has been disseminated via Reddit and other social media platforms. However, Foreman explained that a difficulty with this investigation is that despite the various accounts on social media, very few people who were actually witnesses to the assaults have come forward to let the police know what they saw.
As such, the department is still actively searching for witnesses to the assaults. Foreman encouraged us to share with our readers that if anyone was a first-hand witness to one of the attacks at The Gorge, to please contact them at (509) 762-1160 or via email at email@example.com. This mirrors a statement the department put out last night via Twitter.
If anyone personally witnessed an assault at the Gorge please call us at 509-762-1160 or email firstname.lastname@example.org. We’re investigating and want to hear from you. #Phish
— Grant County Sheriff (@GrantCoSheriff) July 24, 2018
After posting this appeal on social media, Foreman has noted that the department has started receiving more first-hand witness accounts of the incidents. As we were writing this article, Foreman issued an email to the press offering more details about the attack. You can read the email below.
Near GEORGE, Wash. (24 JULY 2018) — Detectives with the Grant County Sheriff’s Office are investigating two assaults which happened during Saturday’s Phish concert at the Gorge Amphitheater near George, Washington.
Sheriff’s deputies were notified Saturday evening of two assault victims who had been brought to the medical tent at the venue. The victims, a 46-year-old man from Washington state and a 38-year-old man from Colorado, each suffered head injuries and were transported to regional hospitals for treatment. One victim is hospitalized in stable condition, the other was treated and released.
What is known so far is that the victims were assaulted around the same time, but at locations far apart from one another inside the concert venue; one victim was down near the stage, the other up high on the hill above. Both victims were struck with rocks. Neither victim can identify their assailant. The victims do not know each other.
Although there was a great deal of chatter and speculation on social media platforms, detectives are asking anyone who witnessed first-hand either of the assaults to contact the Grant County Sheriff’s Office at 509-762-1160, or send information to email@example.com.
When asked, Foreman could not confirm that both victims were people of color, though he also hopes to be able to provide more information on this aspect of the attacks later today. Foreman also noted that they did not have any suspects at this time, but hopes that with more first-hand witnesses coming forward, they can begin to piece together what happened more fully and identify any suspects that may have been involved.
When asked about accounts that the venue or Live Nation’s security failed to notify the police of the assaults, Foreman explained, “We were notified by security and we assigned a deputy down to the medical treatment, where he began to gather information,” reiterating that there wasn’t a ton of information available at that time. He also noted that especially given the nature of the attacks, the Department worked to assign a detective to the case as soon as possible, and the investigation started as soon as they found people were assaulted at the show. He also mentioned that these investigations take time, unlike what might be common in crime television shows, and that the department encountered delays as they filtered through varied accounts on social media.
In addressing the reports and photos of a Neo-Nazi presence at Phish’s show at The Gorge, Foreman was unable to provide much more information. When asked about pictures circulating about the police stopping men with swastika/SS tattoos at Shakedown, he explained that he didn’t know anything about that and was unaware of what the circumstances were that they were being contacted by law enforcement. When asked about the local presence of white supremacists in the area around the Gorge, Foreman offered that to his knowledge, there are no movements or encampments of a Neo-Nazi presence in the area. He also noted that “If there’s any credence to that claim, once we investigate and ask witnesses, we’ll try to determine whether that even played a role or whether it’s speculation.”
From Live Nation
UPDATE (Thursday, 7/26/18): At this article’s initial publication time, Live Nation had not issued a statement regarding the assaults that occurred during Phish’s run at The Gorge. However, on the evening of Wednesday, July 25th, Live Nation PNW issued a brief statement via its Facebook page and reposted the Grant County Sheriff’s Department’s initial press release regarding the attacks.
Live Nation PNW’s statement read:
Live Nation’s top priority is the security and safety of our fans. Upon learning of the assaults that took place at the Phish show at the Gorge Amphitheatre on Saturday evening, our medical and on-site event staff and Grant County Sheriff’s Department responded quickly to the scene. We continue to assist the Grant County Sheriff’s Department in any way possible to identify and apprehend the perpetrators of this crime. However, as this is an ongoing police investigation, we refer anyone looking for further information on these incidents to the below statement from the authorities (also found at this link: https://local.nixle.com/alert/6703570/)
You can also view the full statement on Live Nation PNW’s Facebook page below.
UPDATE (Friday, 7/27/18): Following Wednesday evening’s statement from the regional account for Live Nation PNW, early in the morning (1 a.m. MT) on Friday, July 27th, the official Live Nation Twitter account posted its first statement regarding the assaults that occurred at The Gorge. In Live Nation’s tweets, the promoter echoed its statement on the Live Nation PNW account, noting that fans’ security and safety are its top priority. The company also added that they have “no tolerance for any violence at our venues” and “strongly condemn the terrible assault that took place at the Phish concert.” In a second tweet, Live Nation reaffirmed they are working with the Grant County Sheriff’s Department to identify and apprehend the perpetrators.
Live Nation’s top priority is the security and safety of our fans. We have no tolerance for any violence at our venues and events and strongly condemn the terrible assault that took place at the Phish concert on Saturday, July 21. 1/
— Live Nation (@LiveNation) July 27, 2018
We continue to assist the Grant County Sheriff’s Department in any way possible to identify and apprehend the perpetrators of this crime. However, as this is an ongoing investigation, we refer anyone looking for further info on these incidents to: https://t.co/Xkmt9914qA 2/
— Live Nation (@LiveNation) July 27, 2018
From The Gorge
On Sunday, after the initial reports of the attacks at The Gorge began to circulate, we reached out to the venue. At that time, a staff person at the venue explained that the venue was still going through medical and security records to get a better idea of what happened, and that they would be releasing more information later that day. However, in the time since, The Gorge has not released any statements about the assaults.
Today, when we followed up with people at The Gorge, the person on the phone noted that they have “no comment at this moment.” When asked if they would be releasing information to the public, she said that she did not have an idea of whether they will be making a public statement, reiterating that the venue had “No comment” on the incidents. When asked about whether there was someone within their organization we could contact directly for more information, she took down one of our staff’s email addresses and phone number for the venue to contact potentially in the future, noting, “As for contact information, there is no contact information.”
From One Of The Victims
Today, a fan named Samir Poles has come forward on social media, confirming that he was one of the victims at The Gorge on Saturday night. Through mutual friends, we have reached out to him for further comment, though have not been able to get a hold of him. In his Facebook post, Poles explained,
As I was walking back from the bathroom to meet my friends a really big dude who was waiting in the shadows put a bowling ball sized rock thru my face > I wake up on the ground gushing blood through the whole (sic) in my mouth where my teeth used to be. The other victim Joe arrived in the medical tent 2 minutes after me and was very very hurt.
While rumors have circulated that the victims were involved in nitrous distribution, in his statement, Poles asserted that he did not have anything to do with that aspect of the scene. He also confirmed what the Grant County Sheriff Department’s public information officer, Kyle Foreman, told us, noting that both victims were in different parts of the venue when the attacks occurred. You can read his full account below on Facebook.
GoFundMe campaigns to help Samir with medical expenses have been set up. One has been set up by his friend and another has been set up by his sister. As noted in an update in the fundraiser set up by Mark Stratil, there are two legitimate GoFundMe campaigns for Samir currently. He notes, “We decided to keep them separate so we could reach out to as many of our friends directly. Please feel free to donate to either page. We may combine them in the future to cut down on some confusion.”
A second GoFundMe for the alleged second victim has also been circulating across social media. The GoFundMe aligns with Poles’ account that the second victim was named Joe. You can donate to the GoFundMe here, which also provides more information from the victim’s friends.