Two people have died and two others suffered serious and potentially life-threatening injuries after a series of package bombings in Austin, Texas, that authorities believe to be connected. There have been three explosions asts in the city since March 2, including two within hours of each other on March 12, police said.
The bombings left a 39-year-old father and a 17-year-old boy dead, while a woman in her 40s and a 75-year-old woman were critically injured.
Austin Police Chief Brian Manley told reporters that similarities between the blasts have led investigators to believe they are related.
The first explosion happened about 6:55 a.m. on March 2 in the 1100 block of Haverford Drive, police said. A 39-year-old man, Anthony Stephan House, was killed. The second explosion occurred on March 12 about 6:45 a.m. in the 4800 block of Oldfort Hill Drive. That blast killed a 17-year-old boy and sent a woman in her 40s to the hospital with serious injuries. The third blast happened about 11:50 a.m. in the 6700 block of Galindo Street. A 75-year-old woman was taken to the hospital with serious and potentially life-threatening injuries, authorities said.
“We want the community to be aware of what is going on,” Police Chief Brian Manley said at a press conference near the scene of the third bombing. “Because of evidence that at this scene, as well as at the other two scenes where we’ve had these explosions, this evidence makes us believe that these incidents are related. We do not have a specific victimology or ideology that we have identified, so assigning a motive to this, is not possible based on the stage of the investigation. We are not ruling anything out at this point. We are willing to investigate any avenue that may be involved or behind these acts.”
The Austin Police Department, the FBI, the ATF and the U.S. Postal Inspection Service are investigating, along with other agencies. A joint task force is being set up. It is not known if the victims have been linked, and police are not sure if the victims who were killed and injured were the targets of the bombs.
Texas Governor Greg Abbott has issued a $15,000 reward for information that leads to the identification and arrest of the person or persons involved in the package bombings. Abbott also said that he was briefed by the Texas Department of Public Safety and has offered whatever resources necessary to Austin officials.
“First and foremost, Cecilia and I offer our thoughts and prayers to the victims of these atrocious attacks,” Abbott said in a statement. “I want to assure all Texans, and especially those in Austin, that local, state and federal law enforcement officials are working diligently to find those responsible for these heinous crimes. As the investigation continues, the State of Texas will provide any resources necessary to ensure the safety of our citizens, and quickly bring those guilty to justice.”
Anyone with information is asked to submit tips to Texas Crime Stoppers. Tips can be made by calling 1-800-252-TIPS (8477), by texting the letters DPS followed by the tip to 274637 (CRIMES), through the Crime Stoppers’ website or through the DPS mobile app.
“We are imploring the community, if you know anything about these attacks, it is imperative that you come forward and that you let us know. We are having innocent people being hurt across this community and it is important that we come together as a community and solve this,” Manley said.
Here’s what you need to know:
1. The Police Chief Warned Residents, ‘If You Receive a Package That You Are Not Expecting or Looks Suspicious, Do Not Open it, Call 911 Immediately’
Police have told residents of Austin to be aware of their surroundings and report anything that is suspicious, especially an unexpected package. Police Chief Brian Manley said at a press conference that all of the explosions have occurred at residents.
“If you receive a package that you are not expecting or looks suspicious, DO NOT open it, call 911 immediately,” Police Chief Brian Manley tweeted.
Manley said they are “box-type deliveries,” and the three bombs have been in cardboard, but he said they do not want to limit it to just those, saying, “if you receive a suspicious package, then call us and let us come out, because a device like this can be hidden in many different ways.”
Manley would not provide specific details about the packages and devices because of the ongoing investigation. The person delivering the packages has not been ringing the door bell of the homes where the blasts occurred, Manley said. The residents have come outside and found the packages.
“We have an individual who has the ability to construct these bombs and to have them successfully detonate and cause, what we’ve seen so far, serious injury and loss of life,” Manley said. “We are not calling it a serial bomber, but we have a pattern of instances that have occurred in the community that we’re very concerned about and that we have brought all of the resources as possible to bear. There is no stone that will be left unturned.”
He said there is a “certain level of skill required” to put together the devices. Police do not have any suspect information to release, including physical or vehicle descriptions.
Manley added at a press conference, “if the package looks suspicious in any way, call 911. Report it. We will respond. It may take awhile to get there because we are getting several calls, but we have had all of our law enforcement partners join us in this effort. We have explosive and K-9 teams joining us from the ATF, from the Department of Public Safety and we are pulling resources from other Austin areas as well, because we want to ensure this community that we’re going to do everything we can to keep you safe while this investigation is ongoing up until that time that we conclude it with an arrest. And we don’t know at this point what that timeline looks like.”
The packages that exploded in the first two incidents were not sent through the U.S. Postal Service and appear to have been dropped off at the home, Manley said. Private carriers, like UPS and FedEx, also told police that they have no record of deliveries to either of the homes. Information about the package in the third blast is still being determined, authorities said.
Austin Police are already stretched thin because of the SXSW music, film and technology conference, which runs until March 18 and brings more than 400,000 visitors to the city. Manley said they have received offers from other agencies for support. He also sent a message to those in Austin for SXSW, saying that they should be aware and alert of what is going on, but said it is not believed there is any threat to the festival.
“We have a lot of visitors and it is important that those that are here in Austin for the spring festival to be aware of what’s going on,” Manley said. “Enjoy yourself, have a good time, there’s no reason to believe that you are in any greater risk other than, be aware, look for things that are suspicious. If you see something, say something.”
Manley added, “It’s not time to panic, but it’s time to be vigilant and it’s time to pay attention and it’s time to pull together as a city and a community and solve this.”
2. House Was Killed in the Blast That Occurred Early in the Morning of March 2 at His Haverford Drive Home, Police Say
Anthony Stephan House, 39, was killed in the first explosion on March 2 in the 1100 block of Haverford Drive. The blast occurred about 6:55 a.m. Police Chief Brian Manley said the device was “powerful” and caused significant damage to the front porch area of the home.
“Right now we are trying to determine how did the package get there and who was the intended target,” Assistant Police Chief Joseph Chacon said on March 5, after House’s name was released. “We do feel like this was targeted at somebody.”
House was rushed to the hospital, where he died.
“That case was being investigated as a suspicious death,” Police Chief Brian Manley said on March 12. “It is now being reclassified and is now a homicide investigation as well. We are looking at these incidents as being related based on similarities that we have seen and the initial evidence that we have on hand here today compared to what we found on the scene of that explosion that took place a week back.”
House worked as a senior project manager for Texis Quarries, a job he has had since January 2016. He worked on several commercial projects, including Toyota One’s North American headquarters in Plano, UT Education and Engineering School in Austin and the Phillip 66 Headquarters in Houston, according to his Linkedin profile. He previously worked as a senior project manager at ETBC Contractors Inc. from 2009 to 2016 and as a hedge fund manager for House Capital Management from March 2003 to January 2009. He graduated from Texas State University-San Marcos with degrees in business administration, finance and financial management services.
Heavy talked to House’s brother, Norrell Waynewood, who said that local authorities “attempted to frame” House, accusing him of “possibly producing the weapon that killed him.” Waynewood also said that the incident occurred in front of House’s daughter while he was “preparing to take her to school.”
Waynewood told Heavy that House was the proud father of an 8-year-old daughter whom “he loved more than life.” He also said that House was happily married to a woman who works as an elementary school teacher.
House was the president of the Home Owners Association in his neighborhood, according to Waynewood.
3. The Second Blast Caused ‘Significant’ Damage at a Home Where Neighbors Say a ‘Very Good,’ ‘Church-Going’ Family Lives
The second explosion occurred on March 12 about 6:45 a.m. in the 4800 block of Oldfort Hill Drive, authorities said. It happened in a single-family house and appears to have been caused by a package that was placed on the porch. The explosion caused “significant” damage to the home, Police Chief Brian Manley said.
“What we understand at this point is that earlier this morning, one of the residents went out front, and there was a package on the front doorstep,” Manley said at a press conference. “They brought that package inside the residence and as they opened that package, both victims were in the kitchen and the package exploded causing the injuries that resulted in the young man’s death and the injuries to the adult female.”
The victims have not yet been identified.
“The United States Postal Service has reviewed its records and we do not believe at all that this was a delivery that came through the postal service,” Manley said. “The initial indication is that this was not a package that was delivered by any mail service. It was place on the front door step.”
Manley added, “The damage is significant, and there’s a lot of evidence that needs to be collected.”
He said the incident is, “very similar” to the March 2 incident. “That incident also occurred in the morning hours when the victim in that case went out front and found a package on their front steps that exploded, causing that individual’s death.”
Neighbor Cynthia Burdett told Fox 7 Austin that she was in “total shock,” and said the incident was “very scary.” She told the news station her neighbors are “church going” people who are a “very good family.”
4. Multiple People Called 911 About the Third Explosion, Which Occurred About 6 Miles Away From the Second Blast & About 16 Miles From the First Apparent Bombing
Police said multiple 911 calls were made to report the third explosion, which sent the 75-year-old woman to the hospital with serious and possibly life-threatening injuries. Another woman, in her 80s, was evaluated at the scene, but was not injured in the blast, Austin-Travis County EMS said. The woman has not been identified.
The explosion occurred about 11:50 a.m., about an hour after police and the FBI held a briefing at the scene of the other March 12 explosion. Austin Police Chief Brian Manley and other officials left the first scene to head to the second, which was in the 6700 block of Galindo Street.
“Similar to the other two incidents … is that the victim in this incident came outside of her residence and found a package out front and she picked up the package and at that point the box detonated,” Manley said. “She was significantly injured in that explosion. We are praying and thinking of her and hoping for a recovery from this incident.”
The Galindo Street home is about 16 miles away from the Haverford Drive home where the first explosion occurred on March 2. It is about 6 miles away from the Oldfort Hill Drive home where the second explosion occurred.
5. Chief Manley Said Austin ‘Will Not Tolerate This’ & Said That While No Motive Is Known, Both Fatal Blasts Occurred at Homes of Black Residents, So Authorities ‘Cannot Rule Out That Hate Crime Is at the Core of This’
At a press conference Monday morning, after the second blast and before the third, Chief Brian Manley said, “We will not tolerate this in Austin,” adding that, “you have seen every stop will be pulled out… the federal agencies are with us to lend us a hand and to bring this to as quick as a resolution as possible.”
He also said, “We are looking at these incidents as being related based on similarities that we have seen and the initial evidence that we have on hand here,
Manley said that a possible motive is not yet known. But he did note that the victims in the first two explosions are black. The third victim is Hispanic, police said.
“We cannot rule out that hate crime is at the core of this, but we’re not saying that’s the cause as well,” he told reporters.
Manley added, “We do not yet know if the victims are the intended targets. (The package bombs) are being left at homes where there are either multiple residents or it might even be left at the wrong address. So that is part of the investigation that is going on now.” He said they are trying to determine what might be in common among the victims.
Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton tweeted, “With three reported explosions in the Austin area, I want to urge all Texans to report any suspicious or unexpected packages arriving by mail to local law enforcement authorities. Call 9-1-1 immediately if you receive something suspicious.”
The FBI San Antonio field office said it is assisting in the investigation. The ATF said its National Response Team will be responding to join the investigation.