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Austin Bombing Suspect Dead After Bomb Explosion in Car

Explosion seems to have brought a terrifying saga to a conclusion.

Editor’s Note: This story was updated on March 21:

Mark Anthony Conditt, a 24-year-old white man who police had identified as the main suspect in a series of bombings that terrified Austin, Texas, died early this morning after detonating a bomb in a car as a SWAT team approached.

Austin Police Chief Brian Manley announced that based on information gathered from two packages that had been taken to a Fed Ex facility — one that exploded and one that didn’t —investigators went to a hotel in Round Rock, a city near Austin. They found the suspect in a car and were waiting for backup when he began to drive away.

He stopped on the side of a road, as SWAT team members approached, and around 2am local time, detonated a device. SWAT members fired into the car and it remains unclear if the suspect died from the explosion or gunfire.

CMN’s original story, published on March 20:

There have been a total of five bombings in Texas’ capital city this month. Two people have died and several others have been injured in the past 19 days.

The Bombings:

The first bombing, which occurred on March 2, killed 39-year-old Anthony Stephan House, after he picked up a package off the front porch of his home in northeast Austin. The second bomb was detonated on March 12 inside an east Austin home, killing 17-year-old Draylen Mason and hospitalizing his mother. Mason had been admitted to The University of Texas’ Butler School of Music for the Fall 2018 school year. Shortly after the explosion that killed Mason, a third blast seriously injured 75-year-old Esperanza Herrera who picked up a package off her front porch in east Austin.

The package bombings have been reported in different areas of the city. On March 18, a blast, possibly set off by a tripwire mechanism, seriously injured two men in their 20s in a southwest Austin residential neighborhood. The two were walking along a sidewalk when they unintentionally triggered a bomb that was sitting by a fence. Police say the tripwire signifies a different level of skill and potential “randomness” that hadn’t been seen in the previous bombings. However, the bombings’ similarities have lead investigators to believe all blasts may possibly be connected.

Attention shifted to a different city Tuesday morning after reports of an explosion inside a FedEx facility in Schertz, outside of San Antonio, Texas. The package detonated on a conveyor belt just after midnight, causing non-life-threatening injuries to a female worker. The FBI told CBS Austin that “it’s more than possible” that the package is linked to Austin’s previous explosions. AP reported, Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton said the package at the facility was mailed from Austin to Austin.

Hours after, police received reports of a second package bomb at a FedEx center in southeast Austin near the Austin-Bergstrom International Airport. FedEx said there was “extensive evidence” that confirms the same person responsible for the explosive in the FedEx Schertz facility had also sent the second package which has been secured and turned over to law enforcement.

The Texas Tribune reported, “The city of Sunset Valley — a town contained within with Austin city limits — issued a public notice that the FBI was investigating “a confirmed link between packages involved in the Austin bombing investigation and a mail delivery office in Sunset Valley.” No other details were released.”

The New York Times later reported, that authorities believe the person responsible possibly mailed “at least a couple of packages” from the southwest Austin suburb of Sunset Valley.

Campus Vibes: 

The University of Texas at Austin sits in the middle of the city, the recent bombings have prompted fears around campus. On Tuesday, two different UT buildings (Sid Richardson Hall and Jester Academic) were both evacuated due to fire alarms. Although rumors were rampant, both areas were investigated and cleared by the UT Police Department.

UTPD took to Twitter to remind students to put their phone down while walking, to take their ear buds out and to be aware of their surroundings – #SeeSomethingSaySomething.

There has also been an increase in police activity around campus to ensure safety. UTPD Chief David Carter said in a statement that he has “created a bomb task force, comprised of specially trained UTPD officers with the specific goal of addressing current threats.”

The University also has an Amazon brick-and-mortar location inside Gregory Gym on campus where students regularly pick up their packages. Police are conducting random sweeps in campus buildings and mailrooms with the help of their specially-trained bomb-detection K-9s.

Unknown Motive: 

Speculation that the serial bomber was targeting minorities ran high. Although the first three bombings all occurred around east Austin, Sunday’s attack was in west Austin, meaning the differences in location makes it hard to pinpoint an exact motive. CBS Austin said police originally pointed to possible hate crimes because the first three victims were people of color, but the latest blasts affected two white males therefore authorities are still unsure of the bomber’s motive.

The Texas Tribune is reporting, hundreds of law enforcement officers have helped to investigate the current climate. Additionally, more than 500 federal agents are working the case alongside the Texas Department of Public Safety troopers and bomb technicians from Houston and San Antonio.

The city hopes the public will help catch the person behind the bombings. Local authorities are asking residents to hand over any video surveillance footage that could direct them toward potential leads. They also encourage everyone to stay vigilant and report anything that looks suspicious – emphasizing to not touch, handle or disturb things that look out of place. Officials are offering a 115K reward for anyone with information that leads to the arrest of the person or people responsible for the attacks.

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