Serial bombings shake Austin

From March 2 to March 21, a series of package bombs detonated and were identified in Austin, Texas, leaving the city in a state of fear. The city was particularly panicked because the bombings took place during South by Southwest (SXSW), a series of film, interactive media and music festivals in Austin. The festival increased the number of people in an already-concentrated area during the time of the explosions. The attacks left two dead and four injured.

The first bomb detonated March 2 on the front porch of Anthony Stephan House, who was killed in the explosion. This first death was initially believed to be related to gang violence in the area before later being investigated as suspicious.

On March 12, the second and third bombs detonated, prompting police to investigate the three bombings as related incidents. The second bombing killed 17-year-old Draylen Mason when his mother brought the package into their kitchen. His mother was also injured in the explosion. The third bomb exploded about 15 minutes from the location of the second bomb. A 75-year-old lady was injured and taken to the hospital after handling the bomb.

After the third bomb, law enforcement began reaching out to the bomber through media channels.

On March 18, the fourth bomb exploded and injured two men walking on a sidewalk in an Austin neighborhood. The explosion was triggered by a tripwire. The two men, 22- and 23-years-old, sustained “significant injuries” but were reported to be in stable condition in the hospital.

The fourth bombing prompted the police to increase the reward for information on the bomber to $100,000. The fourth bomb was later reported by Austin Police Chief Brian Manley to indicate a higher level of sophistication than previously thought. Additional law enforcement officers came to Austin to aid the investigation.

On March 20, a fifth package exploded at a FedEx sorting facility in Schertz, Texas. The package was delivered from and addressed to addresses in Austin yet was at the sorting facility outside of the city. One person sustained a small injury but was not taken to the hospital.

Later that day, another package was identified at a different FedEx sorting facility near the Austin airport. The suspicious package was determined by law enforcement to contain an explosive and was subsequently removed. FedEx confirmed that the two packages were sent by the same individual.

On March 21, law enforcement identified a suspect and traced him to a hotel parking lot in Round Rock, Texas. The suspect’s car was followed from the parking lot, but it was driven into a ditch where it exploded. The suspect, Mark Anthony Conditt, 23, died from the explosion.   

At a press conference that evening, Manley says that Conditt left a video confessing to the bombings. He claimed to have made seven bombs. Including the bomb that detonated Conditt’s car, all seven were identified.

After criticism of the police department for their handling of the investigation, Manley called Conditt a domestic terrorist during a press conference March 29. Some of this criticism was due to a perceived lack of police and media attention regarding the initial bombings believed to be because the first victims of the bombings were black and Hispanic. The first victims were prominent members of the African American and Hispanic communities, so this interpreted lack of attention has been especially criticized. It was only once a bomb exploded in a prominent, white neighborhood that the bombings received national attention.

Critics speculated that Manley hesitated to call Conditt a domestic terrorist because he was white. Manley attributes his hesitancy to use the term to “domestic terrorist” having a legal definition Manley was not comfortable with using without more information.

Despite speculation about the bombings being hate crimes, due to the racial makeup of the victims, or politically motivated crimes, Conditt’s confession did not mention a motive. Manley claimed the bomber’s motives may never be known.

Photo credits to CNN.

Catherine Dema

Catherine Dema is the page editor for Features & Investigations on The Hilltop Monitor. She is a senior majoring in Oxbridge: History of Ideas and physics.

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