Austin Package Bomb Explosion Fourth This Month

Local and federal authorities are investigating a spree of explosions terrorizing Austin, Texas.

There have been four separate package bombings in Austin this month. We don’t know much.

WaPo (“Fourth Austin package explosion this month possibly detonated by tripwire, leaving 2 injured, police say“):

Hours after Austin police made a public appeal Sunday regarding three deadly package explosions in the city this month, they were called to investigate yet another incident that caused multiple injuries in a residential area.

Two men in their 20s were injured Sunday in an explosion on the 4800 block of Dawn Song Drive after a package bomb detonated as they passed on bicycles, said interim Austin Police Chief Brian Manley. Unlike the other explosions, which detonated after victims tried to pick up packages left at their homes, this package was left on the side of the road and was possibly triggered by a tripwire, Manley said.

“We are working under the belief that this is related to the other bombing incidents that have occurred in our community over the last couple weeks,” he said at a news conference at 1:30 a.m. Monday.

The two men, who have not been identified, were rushed to the hospital with serious, but non-life-threatening injuries, Austin-Travis County EMS officials said on Twitter. Early Monday, a spokeswoman for St. David’s South Austin Medical Center said the injured men were in good condition.

The earlier three package bombs claimed the lives of a 39-year-old construction worker and a 17-year-old high school student, and seriously injured a 75-year-old woman. The explosions have put the Texas community on edge and police continue to urge residents not to handle unexpected packages.

After Sunday’s explosion, Manley urged residents in the surrounding neighborhood to remain in their homes while investigators continue to probe the area. Because of the darkness, he said, police may not know until after sunrise whether other suspicious devices were left in the neighborhood. He said that people who needed to leave their homes should call 911 for an escort.

CNN (“Austin bombs were ‘meant to send a message,’ authorities believe“):

Authorities continue to chase hundreds of leads in an effort to find the person responsible for three package bombs that have rocked Austin, Texas, this month, killing two and injuring two others.

The reward for information leading to the arrest of the person or persons responsible was increased to a total of $115,000, authorities announced Sunday. The FBI, the ATF and the Austin Police Department are now offering $100,000 for information in addition to $15,000 previously offered by Gov. Greg Abbott’s office.

All the victims have been African-American or Hispanic, leading people of color in the community to feel threatened. Police have not yet discovered a motive, but have not ruled out the possibility the bombs could be hate crimes.

Another explosion struck the city Sunday night, that left two men with serious but not life-threatening injuries. Authorities are working under the belief that the latest incident is connected to the previous three explosions in the city, Austin Police Chief Brian Manley said. At this point, information is preliminary, he said, and police have yet to fully process the scene.

Hours before the most recent explosion, Manley said in a news conference on Sunday: “We believe that the recent explosive incidents that have occurred in the city of Austin were meant to send a message.”

“The person or persons understands what that message is and are responsible for constructing or delivering the devices and we hope this person or persons is watching and will reach out to us before anyone else is injured or anyone else is killed out of this event.”

Manley then spoke directly to the person behind the explosions.

“These events in Austin have garnered worldwide attention and we assure you that we are listening,” he said. “We want to understand what brought you to this point and we want to listen to you.”

Authorities continue to ask for the community’s assistance in the investigation, urging Austin residents to call tips in to the police department, even if the information is seemingly “inconsequential.”

More than 500 federal agents from the FBI, the ATF and other agencies are assisting Austin Police, Manley said. To date, 435 leads have been called in and are being followed-up on and 236 people have been interviewed. Authorities have also responded to 735 calls of suspicious packages since the explosions.

ABC News (“Explosion in Austin injures 2 men, authorities say; fourth incident this month“) adds:

The three bombings this month, over an 11-day period, killed two people and injured two others.

Those three bombs were left as packages on peoples’ doorsteps, while Manley said early Monday that this device was different. It was placed on the side of the road. The victims were injured either while riding their bikes, or pushing them, Manley said.

“It is very possible that this device was activated by someone handling or triggering a trip wire,” Manley said, though he call that “unconfirmed” as the site would not be processed until daylight hours.

The Austin Police Department responded to a so-called “Bomb Hotshot,” according to a tweet. It urged anyone in the “4800 block of Dawn Song Dr.” to avoid the area. It said the victims had “unknown injuries.”

Manley issued a “safety alert” in the wake of the bombing, urging people located within a half-mile radius of where the incident occurred to stay indoors. He said the issue to stay indoors would be lifted at 10 a.m.

“Stay inside your home until we have had a chance to deem this neighborhood safe,” Manley said at a press briefing late Sunday. “That will not be, at a minimum until daylight, given the darkness and the size of the area that we want to go in and check to make sure again that this neighborhood is safe.”

Police also said school buses would not be able to access the Travis Country neighborhood where the explosion took place and said “any tardies or absences due to this situation will be excused.”

In the middle of all this, a yahoo diverted police resources by emailing a fake bomb threat against the South-by-Southwest music festival. He’s been taken into custody and faces ten years in prison.

The natural instinct is to label this “terrorism.” It’s certainly having a terroristic effect. But we don’t yet know who is behind these crimes, let alone what’s motivating them. The presumption that they’re related certainly seems reasonable but it’s not a certainty.

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FILED UNDER: Crime
James Joyner
About James Joyner
James Joyner is Professor and Department Head of Security Studies at Marine Corps University's Command and Staff College and a nonresident senior fellow at the Scowcroft Center for Strategy and Security at the Atlantic Council. He's a former Army officer and Desert Storm vet. Views expressed here are his own. Follow James on Twitter @DrJJoyner.

Comments

  1. Franklin says:

    I’ve got friends and relatives there. Just hoping for a quick resolution here.

    1
  2. OzarkHillbilly says:

    The presumption that they’re related certainly seems reasonable but it’s not a certainty.

    A whole lot of uncertainties here. Not being involved in the investigation, I however am free to speculate.

  3. James Joyner says:

    @OzarkHillbilly: Absolutely. I know nothing that’s not in the papers—and was unaware of the matter at all until the wee hours this morning—and presume that they’re related. My only instinct otherwise is that the latest bomb seems to be of a completely different type than the previous three.

  4. I’ve got a friend in Austin who lives just three blocks from where the third bomb went off. The fact that these attacks seem to be entirely random — no known links between any of the victims — has the whole area on edge.

  5. Hal_10000 says:

    @Doug Mataconis:

    Same. It reminds me of the DC sniper thing.

  6. OzarkHillbilly says:

    @James Joyner: My theory is that the perp is someone trained in explosives (ex-military?) who switched up his MO because his current MO wasn’t going to work anymore. His motives? Anybody’s guess is as good or better than mine.

  7. the Q says:

    What are the odds its a skinhead/rightwing/neonazi Trump supporter? What are the odds that when it turns out to be a trump supporter, trump supporters will blame Hillary and the FBI and state that Nazis are really socialists/communists?