Suspect in Austin bombing is dead, but motive remains unclear

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A suspect linked to five deadly bombings in Austin, Texas is dead following police pursuit in the early hours of Wednesday morning.

Police said they tracked the suspect, a 24-year-old white male, to a hotel in Round Rock, a large Austin suburb, where he attempted to flee. He eventually drove into a ditch and detonated a bomb, killing himself and injuring a nearby officer. Both KVUE News and the Austin-American Statesman have reported that the suspect is Mark Conditt, a resident of Pflugerville, an Austin suburb. Police said Conditt was identified after reviewing surveillance footage connected to one of the bombings. Sources have indicated the suspect intended to continue the bombing spree and that he was planning on extending his efforts to the suburb of Cedar Park.

“The suspect is deceased and has significant injuries from a blast that occurred,” said interim Austin Police Chief Brian Manley. “This is the culmination of three very long weeks for our community.”

“We believe this individual is responsible for all of the incidents,” the police chief confirmed. But, he warned, city residents need to remain alert. “We don’t know where this suspect has spent his last 24 hours,” Manley cautioned.

At least one person decided not to wait before weighing in on the subject and seemingly declaring the case closed.

“AUSTIN BOMBING SUSPECT IS DEAD. Great job by law enforcement and all concerned,” President Donald Trump wrote on Twitter shortly after news broke of the suspect’s death.

That reaction belied a number of realities on the ground. Little is known about the suspect’s motives at this time and investigators indicated they could be working for a lengthy period to understand the rationale behind the bombings, which have left the vibrant Texas capital in a tense state for a month.

“We will be here as long as it takes with our partners to figure out exactly what happened, why it happened and how it happened,” Christopher Combs, an FBI special agent, told reporters.

The bombings in Austin began earlier this month but failed to garner attention from the president for several weeks. On March 2, 39-year-old Anthony Stephan House died after a package bomb left on his doorstep exploded. A little more than a week later, 17-year-old Draylen Mason died after a package carried inside detonated, injuring another woman at the same time. A fourth person, 75-year-old Esperanza Herrera, suffered injuries relating to a separate package bomb.

That initial trio of bombings sparked fears that an individual might be targeting Black and Latinx residents in the Austin area. Both Mason and House came from prominent Black families who knew one another, according to Nelson Linder, the head of Austin’s local NAACP chapter. Police Chief Manley indicated at the time that the incidents were being investigated as a potential hate crime in the majority non-white but deeply segregated city. All three bombings occurred in the eastern part of Austin, which is historically lower-income and home to many communities of color.

Then, the bombings became more random. On Sunday night, two men in southwest Austin were injured when a package bomb left on the side of the road exploded. Both victims were white males and police indicated the bomb was more “sophisticated” and showed that a “serial bomber” could be at large.

“What we have seen here is a significant change from what appeared to be three targeted attacks to an attack that could have harmed anyone,” Manley said at the time.

A fifth explosion rocked a FedEx distribution center in the dawning hours of Tuesday morning. The bomb marked the first incident outside of Austin — the facility is in Schertz, which is close to San Antonio. The bomb caused no injuries but police indicated it appeared to have been sent both from and to the Austin area, indicating that the city remained a priority for the sender.

“We are investigating it as being possibly related to our open investigation,” FBI spokesperson Michelle Lee said following the fifth bombing. “We can’t know for sure until we have an opportunity to look at the evidence itself.”

San Antonio Police Chief William McManus later indicated a second bomb had been found at the site, comments that were later retracted. Later in the day, an explosion at a Goodwill in South Austin sparked concern that a sixth bombing had occurred. Police later said the explosion — which injured one employee — was caused by an “artillery simulator” and was unrelated to the other five incidents.

This is a developing story and will be updated as more becomes known. 

Author: E.A. Crunden

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