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Three Weeks of Chaos

Austin Police Chief Brian Manley, center, stands with other members of law enforcement as he briefs the media, Wednesday, March 21, 2018, in the Austin suburb of Round Rock, Texas. The suspect in a spate of bombing attacks that have terrorized Austin over the past month blew himself up with an explosive device as authorities closed in, the police said early Wednesday. (AP Photo/Eric Gay)

AP

Austin Police Chief Brian Manley, center, stands with other members of law enforcement as he briefs the media, Wednesday, March 21, 2018, in the Austin suburb of Round Rock, Texas. The suspect in a spate of bombing attacks that have terrorized Austin over the past month blew himself up with an explosive device as authorities closed in, the police said early Wednesday. (AP Photo/Eric Gay)

Ilana Williams, Staffer

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With the recent package bombing scare in Austin, our state capital became an everyday item on the national news. Across the nation, people tuned in to see what was happening here. Beginning March 2, our seemingly quiet city experienced a rude awakening.

    In Northeast Austin, at 6:55 a.m., dispatchers received calls about an explosion. Medics arrived at a house in the 1100 block of Haverford Drive.

    Victim: Anthony Stephan House, age 39. Dead.

    House was a graduate from Pflugerville High School. He earned a Business Administration degree from Texas State in 2008. He worked as a project manager for Texas Quarries. Not only was he well established in his career, but the blast left an eight year old girl without a father.

    As police investigated the crime, they came up with the possibility of the bombing being personal and that the package was delivered to the wrong house, meant for a drug dealer nearby. They searched his finances and found that House filed for Chapter 7 Bankruptcy, which is personal bankruptcy that can get rid of personal debt. This included credit card debt, bank loans and medical bills. House claimed to be between $100,001 and $500,000 in debt.

    Next, on March 12 in East Austin at 6:44 A.M. Emergency personnel from Austin-Travis County EMS,  Austin police and fire departments answered to the 4800 block of Old Fort Hill Drive.

    Victim: Draylen Mason, age 17. Dead.

    Mason was a senior at East Austin College Prep. He enjoyed Austin’s music and even participated in the Austin Youth Orchestra. He was accepted to the University of Texas Butler School of Music. His mother was taken to Dell Seton Medical Center with very serious injuries. This bomb was characterized as a package left overnight on a doorstep. Austin Police Chief Brian Manley said the package did not go through the U.S. Postal Service or any other carrier.

    Officers were able to identify this bomb to be related to the March 2 bombing. They believed House was the the son of Rev. Freddie Dixon, who served as a minister at Wesley United Methodist Church located in East Austin. Dixon was close friend of Mason’s grandfather, Norman Mason. These connections to respected African-American families led investigators to believe the bombings were possible hate crimes. However, Rev. Sylvester Chase said the church had no connections to the bombings.

    Hours after the explosion on Old Fort Hill Drive in Southeast Austin at 11:49 A.M., medics were needed again to the 6700 block of Galindo Street.

    Victim: Esperanza Herrera, age 75. Fortunately, found alive.

    Herrera was hospitalized with major injuries after picking up an explosive package outside her home. Her mother, Maria Moreno suffered fewer injuries. This bombing was linked to the first two and was packaged, as well. Investigators say the bombs were built from household items. They also investigated if Herrera was the intended target or if the bomber made mistakes: placing it on the wrong doorstep and thinking it was a member of the Dixon or Mason family. In fact, one of Herrera’s neighbors was Erica Mason, but she was not related to the previous bombings.

    On March 18, in Southwest Austin at 8:30 p.m. there was another explosion near Dawn Song Drive in Travis Country on Southwest Park.

    Victims: Will Grote and Colton Mathis, age 22 and 23. Found alive, but hospitalized for serious injuries.

    Fortunately, these victims were in better condition. This bomb was placed near a sidewalk and there was a tripwire. However, officers believed the bomb had similarities. The tripwire showed the bomber was getting more sophisticated. Investigators still thought these bombings were targeting ethnic minorities, but the new victims were white.

    March 20, outside of San Antonio, there was another bombing. One employee was injured and treated at the scene. Michelle Lee, an FBI San Antonio spokesperson, said it could be related to the Austin bombings, but If that was true, it would have been the first package that was shipped.

    Six hours later, Austin police received another call about a package at another FedEx facility, across from Highway 183 near the international airport. The package contained an explosive device. There were no injuries. Police in Sunset Valley, which is a suburb in SW Austin, announced the FBI investigated and linked the bombings. Police said it looked like a private package from the suspect. The suspect walked in  FedEx in Sunset Valley wearing a blond wig, baseball cap and gloves. This brought suspicions.

    On March 21, police responded to information about the suspect’s vehicle at a hotel in Round Rock.  The suspected vehicle left the hotel and police followed. The vehicle stopped in a ditch on I-35. As Austin’s SWAT team went closer to the vehicle, the suspect set off an explosive knocking down a SWAT officer and killing the suspected bomber.

    The suspect was identified as Mark Anthony Conditt, age 23.

    Conditt was homeschooled. His grandmother says he was “quiet and kind.” She never saw any violence from him. She also described him as “low-key” and “peaceful.” However, police say Conditt was a “very challenging man.”

    Before Conditt committed suicide, he recorded a 25 minute confession on his phone. Austin’s police Chief said it was “the outcry of a very challenged man.” In the confession, Conditt talked about the seven bombs he constructed, but did not say anything about a motive. Through the confession, APD reported Conditt did not make the bombs as part of a hate crime or act of terrorism (despite terrifying citizens). Investigators went through Conditt’s house and found the bombing making lab. They also kept his two roommates under custody for interrogation.

    Police detected the bombs were pipe bombs, made with batteries and smokeless powder found in hardware stores. They had “mousetrap” switches, whereas other bombs had “clothespin” switches. This meant both had springs that made them identifiable, but they were constructed in a way that made others think Conditt had help.

    It’s too early to tell, but there is possibility Conditt could have dissociated himself from his family or was hearing voices in his head, tempting him to build the bombs. However, the bombings are over, and that is a good thing.

    Austin can now go back to being relatively quiet and being known as the City of Music.

 

Sources: CNN and Austin American-Statesman

 

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