Austin police confirmed this morning that the latest bombing in the city appears to be related to other recent deadly explosions in the city and that a tripwire was used to trigger an explosive device nestled along a fence.
Two bicyclists in their 20s were either riding or walking their bikes on the sidewalk just after 8:30 p.m. local time Sunday, said Police Chief Brian Manley. They suffered injuries in the blast that were said to be not life-threatening.
In a late-night press conference, Manley warned people in the neighborhood to stay inside until the crime scene could be processed in daylight. At a press conference this morning, he said a sweep of the area had yielded no additional devices. A “significant” number of FBI and ATF agents have been aiding in the investigation of the blasts.
Anthony Stephan House, 39, was killed March 2 by a package bomb. On March 12, Draylen Mason, 17, was killed by a package bomb and his 41-year-old mother was critically wounded. Those victims were African-American and connected by attending the same church.
Later on March 12, Esperanza Herrera, 75, was critically injured by a package bomb. Sources told NBC that the intended target of that bomb may have been connected to House and Mason.
With Sunday’s bombing, Manley said “what appeared to be three very targeted attacks” had apparently shifted to random victims. The explosive device tripped by the bicyclists was sitting next to a fence in a grassy area along a roadway; they were not next to homes at the time of the blast.
The chief asked residents in Austin’s Travis Country neighborhood to turn in any surveillance footage from any security cameras on their homes. The neighborhood was being locked down until 2 p.m. local time out of an “overabundance of caution,” he said, citing “evidence thrown across quite a significant distance” by the roadside bomb. He wouldn’t go into further detail about the bomb or the nature of the projectiles within.
More than 500 agents and their teams, with additional resources being brought in, are working the case. Authorities have offered a $100,000 reward for information leading to the arrest of the bomber, plus an additional $15,000 is being offered by Texas Gov. Greg Abbott’s office. Residents of communities surrounding Austin were warned to be on guard, as well.
Manley said preliminary investigation showed “similarities in the device that exploded here last night ad the other three devices that have exploded in Austin,” with the “big difference” being the tripwire. He added that the most recent attack is why police didn’t release details on the package bombs, so that Austin residents wouldn’t be looking for only one kind of suspicious device.
Asked why the department was not branding the spate of crimes terrorism, Manley replied that was yet to be determined.
“Is this terrorism? Is this hate-related? We’re early on in the investigation today… as the day moves on that is something we’re going to analyze,” the chief said, adding police are “clearly dealing with a serial bomber now” and “have to determine if we see a specific ideology behind this.”
Austin police said after the first two bombings that they believed the blasts were “meant to send a message.”