Austin’s police chief said Thursday that a “domestic terrorist” set off a series of explosions that killed two people and severely wounded four others in Texas’ capital, offering a stronger characterization of the suspected bomber after drawing criticism for being unwilling to do so previously.
Brian Manley in recent weeks had hesitated to label the bombings terrorism, citing an investigation that still isn’t complete. But at a meeting Thursday on police and community response to the bombings, Manley answered audience questions with other panelists and said, “I actually agree now that he was a domestic terrorist for what he did to us.’”
The admission didn’t go far enough for some present, who continued to ask questions about racism in Austin.
Investigators say that Mark Conditt used one his own devices to blow himself up as authorities approached his SUV before dawn on March 21. Authorities say he terrorized the city for weeks, planting three bombs on doorsteps that killed a man and a teenager and seriously injuring two others.
Later, an explosive with a tripwire injured two more men and a package bomb exploded at a FedEx processing center south of Austin. Authorities eventually used surveillance video of Conditt dropping packages off at FedEx to help track him down.
Police originally called the first explosion, which occurred March 2, an isolated incident. When bombs kept exploding, Manley speculated that they could be motivated by racial hatred because the bomber’s first four victims were all black or Hispanic. But Manley began to downplay that theory after the tripwire injured two white victims. Also, authorities eventually learned that one of Conditt’s roommates is black.
Conditt left behind a cellphone recording in which he called himself a “psychopath” who felt no remorse, but otherwise offered few clues about his motivations for the bombings. Police haven’t released that recording.
Citing it last week, Manley called Conditt a “very troubled young man,” drawing criticism that the bomber would have been labeled a terrorist more quickly if he had not been white.