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After 19 days of domestic terror, serial bombing suspect dead

Pflugerville man with $115,000 bounty commits suicide as authorities pursue him Wednesday; police advise continued caution in case there are accomplices or additional explosive devices

Charlie Holden, Co-editor in chief

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An Austin Police Department officer picks up traffic cones on Tuesday that were used to barricade an area of Houston Street at the Brentwood Townhomes apartment complex after a suspicious package was reported there. The report was a false alarm, and the officers left the scene before the end of fifth period.

The Austin bombings that have taken the lives of three people and injured five others within the past month appear to be over. One of these deaths was that of Mark Conditt, the prime suspect in the serial bombings. In the early morning hours last Wednesday, authorities closed in on Conditt along I-35 in Round Rock. Conditt, who was a 24-year-old white male and Pflugerville resident, killed himself with an explosive device before he could be apprehended. One SWAT member was injured in the blast. Austin Police are still investigating the possibility of accomplices, and urge the public to remain vigilant as the whereabouts of Conditt in the 24 hours before his death are still unknown.

Since the attacks started on March 2, more than 500 local, state and federal law officials throughout the city have been working to find the suspect. They made their break on Tuesday when they confirmed the FedEx drop-off center from which the bomber sent two packages. The center, located in Sunset Valley, was combed over by FBI agents for hours on Tuesday. FedEx issued a statement saying that by using the drop-off center the suspect left “extensive evidence,” all of which was turned over to the authorities. This evidence included surveillance videos from the center as well as from surrounding businesses. Authorities were also able to use clues found when analyzing an unexploded bomb found at a different FedEx Center on McKinney Falls Parkway.

Since the attacks started, more than 1,000 calls were placed to the Austin Police Department reporting suspicious packages. One of those calls was to report a package located at the Brentwood Townhomes apartment complex on the corner of Houston Street and Grover Avenue on Tuesday morning. The call, which reported a suspicious package on a the property only feet from the McCallum campus, turned out to be a false alarm, but the police tape, traffic cones and patrol cars still caused heightened concern among students and teachers on campus.

The first explosion, which occurred on March 2, took place in Northeast Austin. From there, the incidents moved south. The first three bombings targeted African-American and Hispanic residents, leading some to believe that the perpetrator was committing hate crimes. Brian Manley, the interim Austin police chief, told ABC’s Good Morning America on Monday that local authorities were considering all possible motives.

“We’ve said from the beginning that we’re not willing to rule anything out, just because when you rule something out, you limit your focus,” Manley said.

This strategy proved useful. Even though the threat of the bomber has been neutralized, his motivations are not yet clear.

“We do not understand what motivated him to do what he did,” Manley told reporters at a pre-dawn news conference on Wednesday.

Authorities have access to Conditt’s internet history, which may provide some clue as to his motives for the attacks. They were also able to access Conditt’s social media accounts with the help of his roommates.

In addition to the evidence found the FedEx locations, officials also relied on the help of civilians, who have been encouraged to report any information they have to an established tip line. A reward has been offered for any tip that leads to an arrest in the case. The amount, which started at $15,000 climbed to $115,000 in just over a week. There have been no reports on whether or not any individual has been rewarded.

Leading up to Conditt’s death, AISD took many precautions to ensure the safety of students until the threat was eliminated. In an email to teachers Tuesday afternoon, the district’s chief officer for teaching and learning, Edmund Oropez, informed staff that all FedEx and UPS deliveries to AISD sites will be suspended until Monday, March 26.

“Recent events call for extreme caution, and we urge campuses to suspend orders and deliveries to minimize safety risks,” Oropez wrote. “We will continue to work with the Austin Police Department, state and federal entities to take any necessary safety precautions.”

One of the four bombing victims, 75-year-old Esperanza Herrera, remains in serious condition. Anthony Stephan House, a 39-year-old construction worker and a graduate from Pflugerville High School, was killed in the first attack. Draylen Mason, a senior at East Austin College Prep and an accomplished double bass player, was killed in the second attack.

This article reflects the most current information on Wednesday, when The Shield went to press.

1 Comment

One Response to “After 19 days of domestic terror, serial bombing suspect dead”

  1. Liana Smoot on March 29th, 2018 11:35 am

    This is so sad that someone has to be so scared, guilty, or just plain evil that they take their own lives after they’ve already taken many others’. Many people have been saying that they’re happy that the man killed himself but I believe than even though he did terrible things, he’s still a human and he was still alive. People should be relieved that there will hopefully be no more bombings but no one should be happy that another life was taken.

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After 19 days of domestic terror, serial bombing suspect dead