On March 2, a package bomb exploded in Austin, Texas, killing a 39-year-old man. Since then, three more package bombs have exploded in various locations throughout the city, including one on Sunday night. As a result, many people are likely wondering what exactly is happening in Austin and whether or not authorities are close to discovering who is responsible for the explosions.
Sunday's explosion, the fourth since March 2, left two men with non-life threatening injuries. According to CNN, the package was left on the side of the road and the men were either biking or pushing their bikes when the package exploded. Austin Police Chief Brian Manley told media "it's very possible" that the explosive device "was activated by someone either handling, kicking or coming into contact with a tripwire that activated the device."
The first package bomb, which exploded on March 2 outside of a home in north Austin, killed Anthony Stephan House, 39. The outlet also reported that two more bombings occurred on March 12 in the eastern part of the city. The second explosion happened in the early morning hours, killing teenager Draylen Mason, 17. According to reports, someone found the package at Mason's residence and placed it in the kitchen, where it exploded — killing Mason and injuring his mother.
The third explosion occurred at around noon on the same day. A 75-year-old woman picked up a package that had been placed on her porch and was seriously injured when it exploded.
Law enforcement authorities are currently working under the assumption that all four bombings are connected. The New York Times reported that more than 500 federal agents are assisting in investigating the matter, including officials from the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) and the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF). The paper also noted that Austin's residents have been on edge since March 12, the day when the second and third bombings occurred. Since then, Austin police officers have responded to 735 phone calls about suspicious packages.
In discussing the packages associated with the first three bombings, The New York Times also reported that none of the packages were mailed to the individuals who opened them. Instead, they were left near the doors of the victims' homes.
According to Agence France-Presse, after the third bombing, police in Austin indicated that they were not ruling out the possibility that the bombings could be hate crimes. As the outlet noted, two of the victims who perished as a result of the explosions were African American, while another injured victim was identified as Hispanic. The racial identifies of the victims in the most recent bombing on Sunday have not yet been reported.
Chas Moore, the executive director of the Austin Justice Coalition (AJC) told CNN last Thursday that people of color have felt under threat in the city as a result of the package bomb attacks. "We do feel targeted," Moore said. "Until it happens to somebody that is not a person of color I think that is going to remain the same."
Sunday's explosion came several hours after law enforcement officials in Austin held a televised press conference to make a direct appeal to whoever is responsible for the package bombs. During the conference, authorities said:
We believe that the recent explosive incidents that have occurred in the city of Austin were meant to send a message ... The person or persons understands what that message is and are responsible for constructing or delivering the devices and we hope this person or persons is watching and will reach out to us before anyone else is injured or anyone else is killed out of this event.
During the press conference, authorities also revealed that they would be doubling the amount of the award given for information leading to an arrest in the case — from $50,000 to $100,000.
According to CNN, law enforcement officials will continue to process the scene of the latest explosion on Monday morning. Residents in the area near the explosion are required to stay in their homes until 10 a.m. Moreover, Chief Manley advised all of the city's residents to exercise extreme caution in general.
Do not touch any packages or anything that looks like a package. Do not even go near it at this time ... We now need the community to have extra level of vigilance and pay attention to any suspicious device — whether it be a package or a bag, a backpack — anything that looks out of place. And do not approach items like that.