The Austin bombing suspect believed responsible for terrorizing the Texas community with a series of serial bombings is dead after police cornered the man in the early morning hours of March 21, according to the Austin police chief. The bomber died the way he took the lives of others: By detonating an explosive device.
The bomber was identified as Mark Anthony Conditt by NBC News. “He was described as a graduate of Austin Community College’s Northridge Campus who worked at Crux Semiconductor in Austin,” USA Today reported. The bomber was homeschooled and once contemplated a mission trip, according to his mother’s Facebook posts. His mother Danene (Bjerking) Conditt (Austin, Texas) was the “self-employed owner of Conditt Development Group. She and her husband, Pat, have three children: Mark, Christina, and Sara,” according to an alumni newsletter from 2002.
The deceased bomber was a 24-year-old white male, the police chief, Brian Manley, said. Online records, though, give a birthdate making the bomber 23. The chief did not provide other details of the bomber’s identity, including his name. “We do not understand what motivated him to do what he did,” the chief said. “We do believe all of these are related, and that he was responsible for all of these” bombings. According to The Austin American-Statesman, Mark A. Conditt “was home-schooled growing up and went to Austin Community College.”
You can read about his writings on a blog here. He defined himself in 2012 as conservative.
“We started to get information on one person of interest… and as we continued to do our investigations, this person of interest ultimately moved to being a suspect,” the Austin police chief said in the early morning news conference. “We started focusing on his involvement in these crimes. Late last night and early this morning, we felt very confident that this was the suspect.” The chief said witnesses and video sources proved crucial.
“Sources say the suspect killed himself using an explosive device,” Austin journalist Tony Plohetski wrote on Twitter as news broke, and the chief confirmed that information. Photos of a person of interest, supposedly wearing a wig, were published not long before the bomber’s death by News 4 San Antonio as authorities recovered the first images of a possible suspect and began closing in on the deadly bomber. The suspect was reportedly pursued by police along I-35.
The bomber’s death unfolded near a Red Roof Inn.
Here’s what you need to know:
1. The Suspect Detonated a Device, Killing Himself Inside a Car in Round Rock, Reports Say
The Austin police chief said police located the vehicle the suspect was driving and found it at a Round Rock hotel in the Austin area. Tactical teams were arriving, when the suspect’s vehicle started driving away, although authorities are not sure why. Police began following the vehicle. The vehicle ended up stopping in a ditch. “As members of the Austin Police Department SWAT team approached the vehicle,” the suspect detonated a device in the vehicle, killing himself, the police chief said. That knocked one of the SWAT officers back. The suspect is not being named yet because he has not been positively identified yet by the medical examiner and next of kin were not yet notified, according to the chief.
“We have seen members of our community who lost their lives,” the chief said. He added that police do not know where the suspect has been in the last 24 hours so the community needs to remain vigilant in case there are other packages. The chief said that police know who the suspect addressed the packages he mailed at FedEx to but won’t release those names. They said they had been in contact with those people, however.
Police do not know whether the bomber was intending to plant the device he used to kill himself. “We don’t know what his background his,” the chief said.
The suspect’s death came at the end of an officer-involved shooting situation, reports said. Some reports said earlier that shots were fired.
The suspect may have “detonated an explosive device as police attempted to arrest him.” WFAA-TV reporter Jason Whitely wrote on Twitter around 1:30 a.m. Wednesday, “The suspect in the #AustinBombings has been killed after FBI, Austin police tracked him down and engaged him in Round Rock within the last hour, according to state law enforcement officials. A device detonated –which they expected when they pursued him. Then shots.” Watch live coverage from CBS Austin here.
“BREAKING: APD, FBI arresting suspect in Austin bombing. Suspect detonated device, shots were fired. #AustinBomber #austinPD,” reported Kris Betts of KVUE-TV. However, news then came that the suspected bomber was dead.
The ATF was at the scene on I-35. One woman wrote on Facebook, “Wow he was in a hotel near us and when they figured out it was him, he detonated himself. Not in the hotel though. Hmmm Guess that’s that.The end. (I knew they would find him!! )Don’t drive on 35 in Round Rock near 79 it’s closed. Round Rock police say use other routes.”
2. Police Tracked Down the Bomber Using Cell Phone Technology & Security Video
The suspect’s undoing may have been his trip to FedEx to mail two packages – one of which exploded in the San Antonio area at a FedEx facility earlier in the day.
Plohetsi, Austin-American Statesman reporter, reported on Twitter that the suspect was cornered after “police traced suspect using mix of cell phone technology, security video, store receipts.” Television news reports in Austin said that police had painstakingly tracked down receipts for items that comprised the devices.
That led them to the suspect’s identity and, eventually, his location.
According to NBC Los Angeles, “The confrontation took place between the Austin PD SWAT team and the individual believed to be connected to the bombings.”
Timothy Lindholm wrote on Facebook, “So I was just stuck on 35 in Round Rock and had 15 or so unmarked police cars fly by us as we didn’t move for almost half an hour. A state trooper started walking by letting us know we will all move soon, then he just started running back from where he came. Nothing is on the news anywhere, but there were about 50 or so police cars, swat vehicles and a command center outside of this hotel on the other side of the highway as I drove by! The video doesn’t do it justice. I’ve never seen a scene like this! Fingers crossed that they have the person who is causing the mayhem in Austin surrounded.”
3. Photos of a Wig-Wearing Person of Interest Circulated Shortly Before
CBS Austin said the wig-wearing person of interest in the first photos was the same person who is now dead. “BREAKING: Exclusive photos of Austin bombing ‘Person of Interest’ dropping off 2 packages at Austin @FedEx store. Believed to be wearing wig. Recognize him? Contact: @FBI @Austin_Police,” News 4 reporter Randy Beamer wrote on Twitter on March 20, 2018. Based on the photos circulated by Beamer, the alleged bomber’s mistake may have been the FedEx package that exploded, leading authorities to surveillance video and a sense of his identity.
According to the San Antonio television station, the station “obtained photos of the person investigators believe dropped off two suspicious packages on Sunday. Investigators say this is a person of interest and that the two packages are connected to the string of explosions in Austin.” The station reported that the photos came from “inside a South Austin FedEx Office store on Brodie Lane where the person shipped the two packages.”
One of those packages exploded on Tuesday March 20 at the FedEx facility near San Antonio.
4. Austin Police Tweeted About an Officer Involved Shooting
At 12:47 a.m., Austin police tweeted, “APD is working an Officer Involved Shooting in the 1700 block of N. IH-35. Media staging area will be at the Sherwin Williams Paint, 3321 N. IH-35. APD PIO will be en-route.”
The news, if confirmed by police, will be a big relief to the Austin community, which has lived in terror as the serial bomber struck at least six times, killing twice, in a series of escalating attacks throughout Austin. The attacks started out as cardboard packages left at people’s homes, which exploded when they opened them.
Then, the bomber suddenly shifted tactics over the weekend, planting a tripwire that detonated a device, injuring two men in their 20s who were just walked down the road, one with a bicycle. Then, came the FedEx explosion. A separate blast at a Goodwill proved unrelated and was from old military ordnance, police said, although that incident also caused a scare for a community with fraying nerves.
5. Two Promising Young Men Died in the Attacks
Killed in the bombings were two promising young men from prominent African-American families – Anthony House and Draylen Mason. That led some to argue the bombings were a hate crime with racial motive, although that is not yet clear, authorities have said.
The two men opened package bombs in separate incidents and were killed. Mason was a talented musician who had been accepted to college even though he was only 17.
Anthony Stephan House died when a package arrived at his home and exploded on March 2. He was the first victim of the bomber. House, 39, lived in the Harris Ridge neighborhood of Austin, Texas. A package arrived at his home in the early morning hours, and it contained a device that exploded when the package was opened. House was the married father of a young child.
House graduated from Texas State University – San Marcos in 2008. He obtained a bachelor of business administration from the university. According to his Facebook page, House worked as a senior project manager at Texas Quarries, a company that supplies Texas limestone to clients all over the United States. According to his LinkedIn page, he had worked on projects for companies including Toyota One north American Headquarters, UT Education and engineering School, and UT Robert Rowlin Hall.
Draylen Mason, 17, was the second victim to die in the package bombs that were delivered to Austin homes. “Mason was killed Monday morning when a package exploded in the kitchen of his Austin home as it was being opened. His mother is in stable condition,” CNN reported. Mason was a talented musician.
According to his Facebook page, he was a Bassist at Interlochen Center for the Arts, Principal Double Bass at Austin Youth Orchestra, and Principal Bassist at Austin Soundwaves. He went to East Austin College Prep and was from Austin, Texas. A Hispanic woman who has not been named and a FedEx worker were also injured but survived.
Esperanza Herrera was named as a woman injured in one of the attacks.
This post will be updated as more information is learned.