Austin Bombing Suspect Kills Himself In Explosion As Police Move In For Arrest

March 21, 2018
People evacuate as emergency vehicles stage near the site of another explosion on Tuesday in Austin, Texas.

People evacuate as emergency vehicles stage near the site of another explosion on Tuesday in Austin, Texas.

Eric Gay/AP

A man who police had identified as a suspect a string of deadly bombings in the Austin, Texas, area this month killed himself early Wednesday by triggered a bomb in his car as police approached the vehicle to make an arrest, authorities confirmed today.

"Beginning within the past 24-36 hours we began to get information of on person of interest that moved to a suspect," Austin Police Chief Brian Manley told reporters at an early morning news conference.

"Late last night and this morning we felt very comfortable that he was the suspect," Manley said.

The police chief said the suspect, who authorities have declined to name pending positive identification and notification of next of kin, was traced by Austin police to a hotel in the Round Rock community of Greater Austin.

Manley did say the suspect was a 24-year-old white male.

While waiting for backup from federal law enforcement, the suspect departed the hotel and police followed.

Eventually, he pulled the vehicle into a ditch. When a SWAT team approached the driver, "the suspect detonated a bomb in side his vehicle," Manley said, adding that one officer also fired at the suspect.

"This is the culmination of three very long weeks for our community," he said in reference to the first bomb on March 2 and six others that followed through today — in all, killing two people and wounding several others.

Citing an unnamed high-ranking law enforcement official, The Austin Statesman reports that police used security video from a FedEx store in Southwest Austin where a bomb had been shipped earlier to idenify the suspect.

The newspaper says authorities used "store receipts showing suspicious transactions from the person and obtained a search warrant for his Google search history that showed him conducting searches they considered suspicious."

The confrontation early Wednesday comes after police dealt with two more package bombs found on Tuesday at separate FedEx facilities near San Antonio and the one in Southwest Austin. They are the latest of six such devices this month that were thought to be the work of the same individual.

Authorities said another incident at a Goodwill store in south Austin was unrelated, although one employee, a man in his 30s, suffered "potentially serious, not expected to be life threatening, injuries."

Just after midnight on Tuesday, a package detonated at a facility in Schertz, Texas, northeast of San Antonio and one person was treated and released, according to the Schertz Police Department said.

"It was mailed from Austin, and it was mailed back to Austin" going through the FedEx center in Schertz, state Attorney General Ken Paxton told KXAN-TV news.

The package that exploded was addressed to an Austin resident, Paxton said.

In a statement late Tuesday evening, the Austin Police Department (APD), the FBI and the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF) released more details about a second package found later in the day at another FedEx facility was apparently shipped by the same person responsible for the earlier bomb.

"[At] approximately 6:19 a.m., APD received a call regarding a suspicious package at 4117 McKinney Falls Parkway in Austin. APD, along with the FBI and the ATF, responded. It was determined the package contained an explosive device and was disrupted by law enforcement. No injuries were reported."

Officials say the package that exploded may have come from an address on Brodie Lane that houses a FedEx Office printing and shipping office, part of the large Sunset Valley Shopping Center, southwest of downtown Austin. The Sunset Valley Police Department said.

FBI spokeswoman Michelle Lee said, "We believe that the explosion is likely connected" to those earlier blasts.

U.S. Rep. Michael McCaul, a Republican from Austin who is chairman of the House Homeland Security Committee, told the Associated Press that investigators were poring through surveillance videos. "They've got a couple of videos that could possibly be the person but they're not sure at this point," McCaul said.

"There is an army of law enforcement folks that are here," Austin Mayor Steve Adler told NPR's David Greene about the effort to end the bombing threat. "Hundreds of federal agents, multiple federal agencies, hundreds of agents working on this outside of Austin and Texas."

Adler added, "I'm confident they're going to figure out who's responsible for this and stop it."

The investigation into the Schertz blast was slowed by the need to ensure the FedEx facility was safe, FBI Assistant Special Agent in Charge James Smith said at a midmorning update.

On Sunday, a blast triggered by a tripwire caused investigators to acknowledge that the culprit was likely more sophisticated than they had first realized.

Investigators on Monday said they believed the bombings were connected and described the culprit as a "serial bomber."

Austin Police Chief Brian Manley said the conclusion comes from "some of the specific components of these devices."

"We are sending all of the evidence to the ATF lab in Quantico, and they are conducting all of the post-blast analysis of the evidence that we have recovered," Manley said.

Police have urged Austin residents to report any suspicious packages. The Austin Police Department says it has received a total of 1,257 such calls since March 12 — including 420 in the 24 hours between 8 a.m. Monday and 8 a.m. Tuesday.

This is a breaking news story. As often happens in situations like these, some information reported early may turn out to be inaccurate. We'll move quickly to correct the record and we'll only point to the best information we have at the time.

Story source: NPR