Austin bomber: Deceased suspect named in Texas blasts

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Media captionPolice chief Brian Manley announced the suspect’s death to the media

Police have named the suspect they say carried out a deadly series of parcel bombs in the Texas city of Austin as Mark Anthony Conditt, 23.

He was killed after detonating an explosive as officers approached his car following a chase in Round Rock, north of the Texas state capital.

Officials say he lived about 20 miles (30km) from Austin in a shared home.

Investigators say with a “reasonable level of certainty” there are no more devices to endanger the public.

Police told reporters that Conditt – suspected of five blasts that killed two people and injured six others – made a video “confession” on his phone.

The 25-minute clip was recovered from the handset after he blew himself up on Wednesday as police closed in.

“He does not at all mention anything about terrorism, nor does he mention anything about hate, but instead it is the outcry of a very challenged young man, talking about challenges in his personal life,” Austin Police Chief Brian Manley told reporters.

Before his death Conditt had been criminally charged with one count of unlawful possession and transfer of a destructive device, the US attorney for the Western District of Texas said in a press release on Wednesday.

Image copyright
CBS

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The suspect was pictured dropping off parcel bombs at a FedEx store

Who is the suspect?

Conditt lived with two flatmates in Pflugerville, north of Austin, says investigators.

The flatmates have been talking to authorities, but were not suspected of any crimes.

Authorities said they found several components inside the property that match the devices used in the other attacks.

Texas Governor Greg Abbot told Fox News that the suspect had not erased his online footprint, which may provide a “treasure trove of information that should shed light on who he is, what he did, and why he was doing it”.

  • Austin rattled by days of bomb attacks

Conditt attended the Austin Community College from 2010 to 2012, but did not graduate.

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Facebook/ Danene Conditt

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The BBC has confirmed that this 2013 photo is of Mark Conditt

The Austin American-Statesman newspaper reports he was home-schooled by his mother during his high-school years.

“I officially graduated Mark from High School,” his mother wrote on Facebook in a 2013 post showing her son.

“He’s thinking of taking some time to figure out what he wants to do… maybe a [religious] mission trip,” his mother wrote.

The newspaper reports that he had recently worked for Crux Semiconductor in Austin as a “purchasing Agent/buyer/shipping and receiving”, citing a profile on a job recruiting website.

US media have uncovered a 2012 blog which was written under the suspect’s name and appeared to be for a university course that he attended.

In the blog called Defining my Stance, he purportedly describes beliefs that “gay marriage should be illegal”, opposition to abortion and why the sex offender registry should be eliminated.

In the blog, he defines himself as “a conservative”.

“But I don’t think I have enough information to defend my stance as well as it should be defended,” he says, adding that he is taking the course “because I want to understand the US government, and I hope that it will help me clarify my stance”.

How did events unfold?

The Austin police department on Tuesday used footage from a FedEx store in south Austin, the scene of the latest parcel bomb explosion, to identify the suspect.

Police found several pieces of evidence to lead to Conditt, including unusual batteries and screws used in each device, according to CBS News.

After using the Google search engine to gather information on the suspect’s online browsing history, authorities later managed to locate his vehicle.

Early on Wednesday, local and federal officers took up positions around a parking area near a hotel in Round Rock.

As they waited for tactical teams to arrive, the vehicle started to drive away and officers pursued it.

When the vehicle eventually pulled over, armed officers approached, but the suspect then detonated a bomb, injuring one officer.

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Police later confirmed that the blast had killed the suspect.

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Media captionTexas explosions: What we know about bombings

Why?

By Gary O’Donoghue, BBC News, Austin

This was a dramatic denouement to a three-week reign of terror.

It was only in the past 36 hours or so that police really got a handle on the possible identity of the suspect, who had foxed them for weeks by changing the nature of his targets and his method of operation.

But the sheer number of devices – six in all – in such a short period of time may have been one factor that eventually led to his pursuit and apparent suicide.

Another crucial factor was the one device that didn’t go off. That gave police key leads and allowed them to isolate CCTV evidence of the suspect dropping off one of the devices at a FedEx office.

As police continue to gather evidence at the scene, motivation will be the question on everyone’s lips in Texas.


What do we know about the bombings?

Authorities have said that a series of blasts that began in Austin in early March – involving package bombs and a tripwire – were all related:

  • 2 March: A device explodes at Anthony Stephan House’s home in Austin, killing the 29-year-old man
  • 13 March: Hours later, a 75-year-old Hispanic woman, who has not been named, is injured by another package in the state capital
  • 18 March: A device injures two men who may have set off a tripwire while walking along a street in Austin
  • 20 March: A parcel bomb explodes at a FedEx depot in Schertz, slightly injuring one person. Police said the parcel had been due to be shipped to Austin