Investigators believe a package bomb that killed a teenager and wounded a woman in Austin on Monday is linked to a similar bombing that killed a man elsewhere in the city this month, and they’re considering whether race was a factor because all of the victims were black.
Shortly after police Chief Brian Manley held a news conference in which he linked the Monday morning attack that killed a 17-year-old boy and injured a woman with a March 2 attack that killed a 39-year-old man, authorities rushed to the scene of another blast that badly injured a woman.
Authorities haven’t said whether the most recent blast was also caused by a package bomb or if the victim, like those killed or injured in the two confirmed bombings, is black. Austin-Travis County EMS tweeted that the woman is in her 70s and was taken to Dell Seton Medical Center with potentially life-threatening injuries.
The latest explosions happened during a film and technology festival, which brings about 400,000 visitors to Austin each year, and authorities have urged the public to call the police if they receive any unexpected packages. The explosions happened far from the main events of the festival, which runs through Sunday; and there was no immediate word from organizers about additional safety precautions being taken.
Four years ago, a driver plowed through a barricade and into festival-goers, killing four people and injuring many others. Additional security measures were taken in the aftermath, including additional policing, tougher security checks and brighter street lighting, among others.
The three explosions occurred in different parts of east Austin. Monday’s first explosion happened at a home near the city’s Windsor Park neighborhood and about 12 miles from the home where the March 2 package bomb killed 39-year-old Anthony Stephan House. The March 2 blast was initially investigated as a suspicious death, but is now viewed as a homicide.
Monday’s second explosion — the cause of which was still being investigated — happened in the Montopolis neighborhood, near the airport and about five miles south of the day’s first blast.
Manley said investigators believe the March 2 and Monday’s first attack are related. In both cases, the packages were left overnight on the victims’ doorsteps and were not mailed or sent by a delivery service. He said the U.S. Postal Service doesn’t have a record of delivering the package to the home where Monday’s explosion occurred, and that private carriers like UPS and FedEx also indicated that they had none, either.
“There are similarities that we cannot rule out that these two items are, in fact, related,” Manley said.
Manley said investigators haven’t determined a motive for the attacks, but it is possible that the victims could have been targeted because they are black.
“We don’t know what the motive behind these may be,” Manley said. “We do know that both of the homes that were the recipients of these packages belong to African-Americans, so we cannot rule out that hate crime is at the core of this. But we’re not saying that that’s the cause as well.”
Special Agent Michelle Lee, a San Antonio-based spokesman for the FBI, said the agency “responded to both events” and was assisting Austin police, who were taking the lead on investigating. She said the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives was taking the lead on the federal investigation.
Manley said that a second package was discovered near the site of the initial Monday explosion and that some residents and media members were evacuated or pushed farther from the blast site as authorities determined whether it was a bomb.
Police didn’t immediately identify the teenager killed Monday. Manley said the woman who was injured in that attack is a 40-year-old woman who remains hospitalized.