An incendiary device that was an “old military-type” ordnance detonated in Austin, injuring an employee. However, police now say the incident was not a “package explosion” or bomb, and they “have no reason to believe” it’s related to the serial Austin bombings that have terrified the community.
(UPDATE: The Austin bomber was cornered on March 21 in Round Rock and killed himself by detonating another device in his car. The deceased bomber was a 24-year-old white male, the police chief, Brian Manley, said. He 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. Read more here.”
In a press conference, Austin police said the call came in as a “bomb hotshot call” at the Goodwill on March 20, 2018. “Officers determined that a Goodwill employee had found a box that someone dropped off that contained some items that that employee didn’t think Goodwill wanted to have,” police said. Another employee took the box around the corner and found “two small devices that were artillery simulators that looked like some type of military ordnance or looked like some type of memento.” A device went off, and the employee was injured but is recovering.
“This was not an explosive device. This incident is not related to any of the other incidents we’ve had in Austin. This was an old military-type ordnance that initiated in this person’s hand,” police said, adding that they were six-inch long artillery simulator devices.
However, according to Buzzfeed News, the Texas Attorney General contradicted the cops and ATF when he, shortly before the police news conference “refuted the idea that the Goodwill incident is unrelated,” saying on television: “The people on the ground that I’m talking to…they really believe this is the same bomber.” The police said, “I can’t comment on what the Attorney General said.” After getting off Fox News, the AG told a local show, that he’d heard “two different opinions” on whether the Goodwill explosion is tied to the previous bombings. “I don’t know at this time what the right answer is, but I think we’ll know soon,” he said.
The incident does show how tense the community is right now. Police dispatch traffic was rife with calls about suspicious packages, sending authorities rushing from one scene to the next. “They look to be legitimate Amazon packages,” an officer said in one such unrelated transmission. The Brodie Goodwill call, though, generated massive response both from law enforcement and, then, from the news media.
“#UPDATE: There was no package explosion in the 9800 block of Brodie Ln. Items inside package was not a bomb, rather an incendiary device. At this time, we have no reason to believe this incident is related to previous package bombs. #Breaking #packagebombmurders,” Austin police wrote on Twitter just after 8 p.m. on March 20, 2018.
The police update confused a lot of people. “Incendiary device means bomb. Please explain,” wrote one person on Twitter. “What?? Isn’t an incendiary device a bomb?? Explain please! I’m confused. I live very close to that and my anxiety is in high gear right now!” wrote another. A lawyer named Jason Trumpler wrote on the police thread, “I was in the parking lot of the Randalls getting my car with kids. There was a loud sound followed by a noxious smokey odor. Call it whatever you want.”
KVUE-TV provided further details after interviewing Goodwill. “Employee saw something unusual that looked like a pipe, CEO of Goodwill of Central Texas tells KVUE. The employee started to take it out, it dropped and blew up,” the television station alleged. Goodwill closed its stores and stopped taking donations as a precaution.
A photo showed smoke at the scene, but KVUE reported that police say a car fire nearby was unrelated, which police confirmed and which could also explain why some people were smelling fumes. According to U.S. Legal.com, an “incendiary device” is defined as “any firebomb, and any device designed or specially adapted to cause physical harm to persons or property by means of fire, and consisting of an incendiary substance or agency and a means to ignite it.”
The ATF disseminated the same information, though, writing, “BREAKING: ATF responded to a reported incident in the 9800 block of Brodie Lane, Austin. It was not a package bomb. An incendiary device was located, one injured. At this time, it does not appear to be related to the #packagebombmurders.” Authorities have not explained further.
There were initial fears – fueled by official reports of another “package explosion” – that the Goodwill blast marked a possible sixth explosion in the serial bombings that have terrified the Texas community. One reporter said you could smell “smoke in the air” after the blast.
The blast injured “an employee at the Goodwill store in the area. The employee was looking in the donation box when the device exploded,” KVUE-TV reported. There might be a second device at the location.
There was another blast earlier in the day at a San Antonio-area FedEx facility, with a package earmarked for Austin; authorities do think that explosion was linked to the serial bombings. You can listen to live dispatch audio feeds here.
Here’s what you need to know:
1. The Latest Explosion Injured a Man at the Goodwill
The latest explosion at the Brodie Goodwill injured a man in his 30s, but the injuries are not expected to be life threatening, authorities said. It’s not yet clear what kind of an “incendiary device” it was. The Goodwill store at 9801 Brodie Lane in Austin is a donation center and store, according to the Goodwill Central Texas website.
Goodwill Austin released a statement, saying, “Senior Leadership and authorities are investigating a possible explosion at a south GW store. It is our understanding that a Team Member is being treated for non-life threatening injuries. In an abundance of caution for our Team and customers, all Goodwill Stores will be closed.”
Authorities have not yet confirmed the donation box angle. The Austin Fire Department initially wrote: “Re Haz Mat Task Force 9801 Brodie at Goodwill. Austin Fire on scene at reported package explosion. @Austin_Police and @ATCEMS on scene as well. One reported injury and crews evacuating building.”
According to journalist Andy Sevilla, writing on Twitter, “You can smell smoke in the air, people visibly shaken as police ask everyone to evacuate this business park anchored by Randall’s on Brodie and Slaughter.” Sevilla also wrote: “I’m at Randall’s grocery store on Brodie, a few hundred yards from where a possible explosion went off in #Austin near a Goodwill store. Police having employees evacuate store, said all business being shut down here. @statesman #AustinBombings.”
There were immediate fears of a bomb as the community remains on high alert. Journalist Robert Villalpando, of the Austin-American Statesman newspaper, wrote on Twitter, “Bomb went off at goodwill store behind my house around 7 pm; standing in field next to my house with my dog; police helicopter is circling overhead; people keep driving down my street trying to bypass blocked traffic; I know I’m a grizzled journalist but I’m a little shook up tbh.”
“Multiple assets from #ATCEMS @austinfiredept @Austin_Police responding Brodie Ln/W Slaughter Ln (1902) reported explosion with reports of one patient injured. Unknown severity of injuries at this time. Avoid the area and expect closures. More to follow,” reported Austin-Travis County EMS on Twitter as the incident first broke.
“FINAL Multiple assets #ATCEMS @AustinFireInfo @Austin_Police on scene Brodie Ln/W Slaughter Ln (1902) reported explosion: #ATCEMSMedics transported ~30s male with potentially serious, not expected to be life threatening, injuries to St Davids South Austin. No further info avail,” ATC EMS wrote initially on Twitter.
“Update 9801 Brodie. Crews working on setting up exclusion zone. Traffic on Brodie will be affected. Avoid area @Austin_Police,” The Austin Fire Department wrote.
2. A Package Blew Up Earlier in the Day at a San Antonio-Area FedEx Facility
There was yet another explosion earlier in the day on March 20. A San Antonio-area explosion at a FedEx facility in Schertz, Texas may be linked to the Austin bomber who had previously struck four times in March 2018, authorities said. The FedEx package may end up being a misstep as reports say authorities might have captured the bomber on surveillance video; however, they have not released any video at this point.
“It would be silly for us not to admit that we suspect it’s related” to the Austin bombings, FBI San Antonio spokeswoman Michelle Lee said to USA Today. The ATF and other agencies were responding to the season. Schertz is a suburb of Texas. It’s geographically positioned about an hour from Austin, where the serial bombings have occurred.
Fed Ex released a statement that said in part, “FedEx has confirmed that a package detonated at a San Antonio FedEx Ground facility early this morning. We have also confirmed that the individual responsible also shipped a second package that has now been secured and turned over to law enforcement.”
In addition, according to the Austin American-Statesman, “FBI officials have confirmed a suspicious package found Tuesday morning at a FedEx ground facility in Southeast Austin contained an explosive device.” That package is different from the one that blew up in Schertz.
3. The FedEx Package Blew Up in a Sorting Facility
The Shertz Police Department in Schertz, Texas confirmed the earlier March 20, 2018 blast at the FedEx facility in the San Antonio-area suburb.
“Early this morning, Schertz Police responded to the Fedex facility in the 9900 block of Doerr Lane for a report of an explosion,” the police department’s post on Facebook read. “Further investigation revealed the explosion came from a package in the sorting area of the facility. One person was treated and released at the scene. We are currently working closely with several local and other Governmental agencies. We will keep everyone updated as we gather more information.”
According to CNN, the person who suffered minor injuries in the explosion is a FedEx team member.
According to The Austin American-Statesman, two of the packages may have been sent from “the same FedEx Office store in Sunset Valley.”
4. The Austin Bomber, Who Has Killed Two Promising Young Men, Has Been Shifting Tactics, Including Use of a ‘Tripwire’ Over the Weekend
The serial bomber has demonstrated as concerning shift in tactics in an attempt to stay ahead of public vigilance and police safety instructions to the community. The unknown bomber or bomber first struck three times by leaving unattended cardboard package bombs at the homes of people in Austin, Texas. Two young men from prominent African-American families – Draylen Mason and Anthony House – were killed when the bombs detonated upon opening the packages. Two women were also injured, including an unidentified Hispanic women who was wounded in a third Austin blast, also from a package bomb.
Then, over the weekend, a fourth blast occurred in Austin – this one in which the attacker used a trip wire that detonated when two young men in their 20s somehow triggered it. The police chief confirmed the presence of a “tripwire” in a press conference, striking greater fear in the Austin community.
Mason and House were well-liked young men with promising futures. For example, Mason was an accomplished musician with a college offer even though he was only 17-years-old when he was killed when the package detonated inside his home. In the most recent case where a blast when off in Austin, one of the two men – Will Grote – is the son of a Texas agency official with the state Department of Agriculture. His grandfather told the Associated Press that the men did not see the tripwire in the dark, and the bomb contained nails. They did not suffer life-threatening injuries although the police chief called their wounds significant.
You can learn more about Mason here:
5. Some Have Draw Parallels to the Unabomber
Some have compared the Austin bomber to the Unabomber, Ted Kaczynski, although others have argued that, unlike Kaczynski – who was motivated by hate for modern technology – the Austin bombings could be a hate crime. That’s because the first victims were all ethnic minorities, although the latter two – identified in Austin media as Will Grote and Colton Mathis – were not. The Austin bombing suspect had not previously used the U.S. mail (unlike the Unabomber, who sometimes used letter bombs) as the packages initially showed up at people’s homes.
As with the Austin bomber, the Unabomber sometimes varied his tactics – and his victims – and toyed with authorities. However, there are also differences between the two. You can read a comparison of the similarities and differences here.