The frightful episode in Austin has ended, after the bombing suspect killed himself in Round Rock, Texas, as a police swat team closed in by detonating an explosive device inside his vehicle after spotting police on his tail.
The suspect, identified as Mark Anthony Conditt, a 24-year-old white male, killed himself in a town 20 miles north of Austin, in a dramatic end to a serial bomber’s 19-day siege of the Texas capital that terrified residents with numerous explosions.
Police initially refused to release Conditt’s name until his next of kin were notified.
FBI agent Chris Combs, head of the agency’s San Antonio office, says, “We are concerned that there may be other packages that are still out there.”
The case was similar to the Montana-based domestic terrorist Ted Kaczynski, the so-called Unabomber, who killed three people and injured 23 others with package bombs over 17 years, starting in 1978.
Kaczynski was not arrested until 1996.
At least six devices have exploded in Austin this month, including blasts in residential areas killing two victims and injuring several other people, while a package addressed to the city exploded on Tuesday at a FedEx facility near San Antonio.
The four package bombs in Austin this month killed two people and injured four others. A fifth parcel bomb detonated at a FedEx distribution center near San Antonio early Tuesday. The last bomb ended the suspect’s left.
Austin Mayor Steve Adler said police obtained surveillance images showing the suspect at a FedEx store, and they identified his car, which was spotted Wednesday night at a hotel in Round Rock.
Austin police chief Brian Manley said authorities had zeroed in on the suspect in the last 24 to 36 hours and located him at a hotel on Interstate 35 in the Austin suburb.
While waiting for ballistic units to arrive, the suspect’s vehicle began to drive away and police followed until it stopped in a ditch on the side of the road, the police chief said.
When members of the swat team approached, the suspect detonated an explosive device inside the vehicle. The blast knocked back one officer, while a second officer fired his weapon, Manley said.
The suspect, who suffered significant injuries from the blast, was killed. Authorities identified him only as a 24-year-old white man and said it was too soon to say if the suspect had worked alone or what his motive was.
Special Agent In Charge Fred Milanowski, of the Houston division of the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF), said it was “hard to say” if the bombing suspect was acting alone.
“What we do know is we believe the same person built each one of these devices,” said Milanowski. “We are not 100% convinced there’s not other devices out there. We still want the public to be vigilant.”
“We know when he bought some of the components. It’s hard to say whether he was building along the way,” said Milanowski, who said authorities believe the suspect to be responsible for all the Austin bombings but they still want to be certain.
The first three bombs were triggered by people handling packages left overnight on doorsteps and not sent via the postal service or a private company. A 39-year-old man died on 2 March, followed by a 17-year-old boy who was killed in his kitchen on 12 March. Later that morning a 75-year-old woman was seriously hurt.
The two who died were black, and the woman Hispanic, prompting investigators and community leaders to raise racial hatred as a possible motive. However, another explosion on Sunday complicated the theory that the victims were targeted.
Two white men, aged 22 and 23, sustained serious injuries that are not thought to be life-threatening. At least one of the men had what looked like nails embedded in his knees. The affluent, leafy neighbourhood of Travis Country was locked down for much of Monday as police cordoned off streets and told residents to stay inside as local, state and federal investigators examined the scene.
Despite the deployment of hundreds of agents and $115,000 worth of rewards on offer for tips leading to an arrest, authorities had struggled to identify the suspect or suspects.
Milanowski says investigators aren’t completely convinced that there aren’t other explosive devices “out there,” and that they want the public to remain vigilant.
He called the bomb that killed the suspect “a significant explosive device.”
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