Overview of the Austin Serial Bomber Events and Investigation

The city of Austin, Texas was terrorized for almost three weeks in a wave of bombings. The serial bomber, now known as Mark Anthony Conditt, 23, expressed no remorse for killing two people and wounding five in a confession video he made the night before taking his own life. While any specific motive remains a mystery, the bomber talked in the 25-minute confession video about his despondence over his difficulty with employment and other “aggravating factors.” In his confession, Conditt described the components of seven bombs he built detailing the differences among the devices, including the one authorities believe he used to kill himself.

The Explosions

March 2, 6:55am – Austin police received reports of an explosion and found a critically-injured male. The 39-year-old victim was transported to nearby Round Rock Hospital where he later died. Austin police said they had determined the device was inside a package, and were working with the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives to reconstruct the device to aid in the investigation.

March 12, 6:45am – Austin Police received a call about an explosion in a neighborhood on the northwest side of the city after a 17-year-old resident found a package on the front step. The victim brought the package inside and opened it in the kitchen resulting in an explosion which killed the teenager and seriously injured a woman in her 40s.

March 12, 12:08pm – Austin-Travis County EMS officials declared a “trauma alert,” announcing they were transporting at least one patient to the hospital following a reported explosion. Police identified the victim of the third bombing as a 75-year-old Hispanic woman, who was in “critical, but stable condition.”

Police determined these package bombs were left at the front doorsteps and not delivered by a mail service. Federal law enforcement officials stated the packages were made to look like mail.

March 18, 9:16pm – Austin police confirmed two males were injured after another explosion, possibly triggered by a trip wire, occurred in an Austin neighborhood known as Travis Country. It was suspected that this explosive device was initiated by a tripwire connected to a “Slow Down Children At Play” sign.

March 20, 12:30am – A device exploded inside a FedEx ground distribution facility near San Antonio, while traveling down an automated conveyor and injuring one person.

March 20, – Later that morning, a second suspicious package was located at a different FedEx facility near Austin and was “disrupted by law enforcement.” FedEx released a statement saying the suspect shipped a second package that had been secured and turned over to law enforcement.

March 21, 4:57am – The suspect in the bombings killed himself with an explosive device after police SWAT units confronted him in his vehicle on a service road along Interstate 35.

The Devices

The devices were reported to be made from common everyday items mainly purchased at local Austin hardware stores and some from online sources. Pipe bombs made from galvanized pipe and filled with smokeless powder were used as main charges and initiating components utilizing simple items included mousetraps and clothespins. Metal pieces such as nails and screws were added for an increased fragmentation effect.Investigators said each device was slightly different in how it was to function and this indicated the bomb-maker was experimenting with different initiation methods. A common factor was all of the devices had used the same type batteries that investigators described as “exotic” and “unique” which then became part of the bomber’s signature used to connect each bombing.

The Investigation

Using the evidence collected at each crime scene the investigators were able to identify the device components including nails and screws added for fragmentation effect and determined the items were likely purchased from local hardware stores. This information led investigators to search area stores for recent suspicious purchases and provided authorities with enough evidence to consider Mark Conditt a “person of interest.”

On March 20th, a package bomb exploded inside a FedEx ground distribution facility. Additionally an unexploded device was also located in another package and was rendered safe by law enforcement. This indicated that the bomber had attempted sending bombs to further addresses in Austin. Investigators quickly found surveillance footage from a FedEx store south of Austin which captured a man in a baseball cap, blond wig and pink gloves bringing the two packages into the store. It also showed the suspect parked within view of surveillance cameras and the license plate of Mark Anthony Conditt’s red Ford SUV could be seen on the video. Police used the discovery to begin tracking the suspect.

The Confrontation

Authorities were able to monitor Conditt’s location by pinpointing where his cellphone was being used. Investigators used cellphone technology to track him to a hotel parking lot in Round Rock, about 20 miles north of downtown Austin. There, they spotted his vehicle. Police and federal agents gathered outside the hotel and were awaiting the arrival of SWAT tactical teams. While awaiting the arrival of those teams Conditt drove away in his vehicle. Police followed him as he traveled down a service road along Interstate 35 until they forced him to stop on the side of the road. As the SWAT team cautiously approached, Conditt detonated an explosive device inside his red SUV and died in the blast. The 25-minute recorded confession video was found on Conditt’s cellphone when police recovered his body later that morning.

The Continuing Search

Federal agents searched the home that Conditt shared with at least two people in Pflugerville, a suburb of about 50,000 people north of Austin. Conditt’s two roommates were detained and questioned by police while investigators tried to determine if he acted alone. Police said both of the roommates were eventually released and were not arrested. Neither roommate was publicly identified.
Inside a room, agents found components for making similar bombs to the ones that exploded in the past few weeks. However, agents did not find any finished bombs. Conditt had bought several “Slow Down Children At Play” signs at a Home Depot, which lead law enforcement to believe Conditt was planning more attacks using trip wires.
Conditt had a list of addresses that authorities recovered. The list has been mischaracterized in media reports as a “target list” although investigators had not yet determined if they were potential targets or whether the addresses were linked to this case. Law enforcement has since cleared those sites. The public was encouraged to remain alert as authorities were not aware of the suspect’s actions or whereabouts before his death and it is possible he could have left behind more explosive devices.
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