After perpetrating five bomb attacks over 19 days — and possibly planning a sixth that was foiled by police — Austin’s “serial bomber” used his deadly wares to take his own life Wednesday, authorities said.
It brought an end to a nearly three-week spate of terror in the Texas capital, but not before explosions killed two people and injured several others. The first three were package bombs left at homes; the fourth, on the side of a road; and the last went off at a FedEx facility near San Antonio. A sixth bomb, at a FedEx facility in Austin, was intercepted by authorities. It never detonated.
Here’s what police say about each attack:
The first blast was reported about 6:55 a.m. in the Harris Ridge neighborhood of north Austin. It was a powerful device, essentially a pipe bomb, in a normal-size delivery box, which would be a theme for the first three bombings.
Anthony Stephan House, 39, died from injuries he suffered after opening the package.
His LinkedIn profile said he was a senior project manager for Texas Quarries and participated in commercial projects throughout the state, including at University of Texas properties and the Phillips 66 headquarters in Houston.
The first of two bombs that day, it was detonated around 6:44 a.m. in the city’s East MLK neighborhood. Like the bomb 10 days earlier, it had been left at the victim’s home and it appeared to have been hand-delivered rather than by any courier service. The bomb detonated when the victim brought it inside and opened it.
It killed 17-year-old Draylen Mason, a promising student who played stand-up bass in a youth orchestra and was taking college classes while in high school. His mother was injured in the bombing. Neighbors saw her in the yard covering her face with her hands and brought her blankets because the blast had ripped off some of her clothing, said Anne Marie Castillo, who lives five houses down from Mason.
Mason and House were both African-American.
“(Mason) was a young guy with so much future and potential. We talked a lot about college. He hugged me every morning before class,” Austin Community College professor Samuel Osemene said.
March 12 again
Police were processing the scene at the East MLK bombing when another bomb erupted in the Montopolis neighborhood of southeast Austin, a few miles from Austin-Bergstrom International Airport.
The midday blast left a 75-year-old Hispanic woman badly injured, spurring police to leave open the possibility of hate crimes, given the victims were, at this point, all minorities.
“We believe that the recent explosive incidents that have occurred in the city of Austin were meant to send a message,” Austin police Chief Brian Manley said.
This was the first explosion to break with the pattern of doorstep deliveries. Instead, this bomb was left on the side of the road in the upscale Travis Country neighborhood of southwest Austin. It could have maimed any passer-by, police said.
Two white men, a 22- and 23-year-old, who were walking alongside the road when the bomb detonated, were taken to a hospital with serious but non-life threatening injuries.
Despite the new modus operandi, Manley said investigators believe the bombings are connected.
“A single package” exploded on a conveyor belt at a FedEx facility in Schertz, Texas, outside San Antonio, injuring one of the company’s employees, who was treated and released at the scene.
FBI San Antonio spokeswoman Michelle Lee said that, based on preliminary evidence at the scene, investigators suspect it could be related to the Austin explosions.
If that’s true, it would make this explosive device the first that was actually shipped.
Also March 20
About six hours after the explosion in Schertz, Austin police received a call about a suspicious package at a FedEx facility in southeast Austin, just across Highway 183 from Austin-Bergstrom International Airport, authorities said.
“It was determined the package contained an explosive device and was disrupted by law enforcement. No injuries were reported,” said a joint statement from local and federal authorities.
Police in Sunset Valley, a suburb southwest of Austin, announced the FBI was investigating a link between the string of bombings and a mail delivery office in Sunset Valley.
“It appears that the source of the suspect packages was a private package delivery office in Sunset Valley,” police said.
Police, responding to information they’d received over the previous 36 hours, tracked the suspect’s vehicle to a hotel in Round Rock, north of Austin. As police waited on tactical units to arrive, the vehicle left the hotel, and police followed.
The vehicle stopped in a ditch on the side of Interstate 35, and as the Austin Police Department’s SWAT team approached, the suspect detonated an explosive device inside the car, knocking down a SWAT team member and injuring the officer.
The suspect, who was identified only as a 24-year-old white man, is responsible for all the incidents in Austin, Manley said.