AP: The San Antonio Texas Fire Department says a package bomb has exploded at a FedEx distribution center in Schertz, Texas, hurting 1 person, a FedEx employee who apparently suffered a non-life-threatening “percussion-type” injury from the blast. The FBI and ATF are at the scene. Federal agents say this package is likely linked to attacks by what they believe is a serial bomber. The package exploded shortly after midnight on Tuesday.
AUSTIN, Texas—Police said a “serial bomber” was at work in the Texas capital after the fourth explosion to hit the city since early March ripped through a residential neighborhood Sunday night, seriously injuring two men.
The blasts, which have killed two people and left several injured, are likely linked, said Austin Police Chief Brian Manley. And they have shaken every corner of this booming city—from the wealthy subdivision where Sunday’s blast took place, to the working-class black and Hispanic enclaves where a pair of the recent bombs went off. Police haven’t detailed why they think there is a connection, but Chief Manley said they had “seen similarities” in the devices.
Sunday’s incident prompted a shift in the investigation. Both victims were white, while those previously killed or injured had been black or Hispanic. The latest bomb also appeared to be more sophisticated and indiscriminate, police said, triggered by a tripwire that could have injured any passerby. The first three involved packages left on doorsteps.
Source: Staff reports
“We have seen now a significant change from what appeared to be three very targeted attacks to what was—last night—an attack that would have hit a random victim that happened to walk by,” Chief Manley said.
More than 500 federal agents from a variety of agencies are helping local police investigate the bombings.
The first bomb went off March 2 in northeast Austin, on a suburban street nestled behind several large corporate office campuses, where Dell Technologies Inc., General Motors Co. and Home Depot Inc. have hundreds of technology workers. It killed Anthony S. House, 39 years old. The second went off 10 days later in a gentrifying, lower-income neighborhood in East Austin, where newcomers who commute to downtown jobs on mopeds live next to longtime denizens. Killed was Draylen Mason, a 17-year-old musicianwho had been accepted to the music school at the University of Texas.
Both Mr. Mason and Mr. House came from prominent African-American families who attend the same predominantly black church in Austin. The victims’ race led officials to speculate that the crimes might be racially motivated.
Later the same day, another bomb detonated in a lower-income, largely Hispanic enclave of southeast Austin, sending an elderly woman to the hospital. That attack spurred conjecture the bomber was targeting minority communities on the east side of Interstate 35.
Both hypotheses fell apart at 8:32 p.m. Sunday local time, when the latest bomb was triggered by two white men, both in their early 20s, walking through a neighborhood in southwest Austin. The upper middle-class area, known as Travis Country, abuts a large wooded area of creeks and biking trails called the greenbelt, and is in a predominantly white part of the city. It is on the west side of the interstate.
The two injured men were taken to the hospital with significant injuries. Both were listed in stable condition by Monday afternoon.
Nelson Linder, president of the NAACP’s Austin branch, said the revelation that Sunday’s victims were white showed the bomber wasn’t limiting victims to a particular demographic or cross-section of the city. “Last night proved this individual is a threat to the entire city,” he said.
The disparate mix of neighborhoods and socioeconomic classes being affected by the explosions added to the confusion gripping Austin.
“I’m just concerned because it is different neighborhoods and different groups. It seems random, and that makes it more scary,” said Anne Wilson, who was walking near downtown Monday.
The anxiety was heightened Monday morning when police mistakenly issued a shelter-in-place text message to many parts of the city, when they had intended it for residents in the area close to the latest bombing. Chief Manley apologized for a “glitch” in the notification system. Midday Monday, residents in Travis Country were still being urged to shelter in place as police searched for clues.
“We just want to know from authorities: Can we walk around our neighborhood? Is it safe?” said Leith El-Hassan, a 42-year-old who works in advertising and lived near the site of Sunday’s explosion.
Meantime, police warned residents to be vigilant about anything unusual, such as a box or backpack that seems out of place. Until Monday, police urged residents specifically to be wary of unexpected packages. The first three bombs were left outside residences and exploded after being retrieved by the victims.
“We’re even more concerned now,” said Fred Milanowski, special agent in charge of the Houston division for the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives. “If people see something suspicious, just stay away from it altogether and contact law enforcement.”
Authorities were poring through hundreds of leads and offering rewards of more than $100,000 for information leading to the arrest and conviction of those responsible. On Sunday afternoon, they held a news conference and urged whoever was responsible to come forward.
“We hope this person or persons is watching and will reach out to us before anyone else is injured or anyone else is killed,” Chief Manley said. “We want to understand what brought you to this point.”
Several hours later, the latest bomb went off.
Write to Dan Frosch at firstname.lastname@example.org and Russell Gold at email@example.com
Appeared in the March 20, 2018, print edition as ‘A ‘Serial Bomber’ Unnerves Austin.’