After holding the greater Austin area at bay for nearly three weeks, police report the suspect in a series of bombings killed himself early Wednesday morning.
Austin Interim Police Chief Brian Manley said in an early morning press conference on Wednesday that police tracked the suspect, later identified as 24-year-old Mark Anthony Conditt, to a motel in Round Rock. After a short pursuit, Conditt detonated a bomb inside his vehicle, killing himself and injuring one officer.
“It has been a long almost three weeks for the community of Austin as we have dealt with package bombs and other types of bombs that have been place throughout our community," said Manley. "We have seen members of our community that have lost their lives and others who’s lives have been forever changed due to significant injuries.”
Manley said that police still don't know a motive for the attacks.
"Within the last 24 to 36 hours we started getting information on one person of interest that we continued to work on and continued to develop and as we continued to do our investigations, this person of interest ultimately moved to be a suspect and that’s what we started focusing on his involvement with these crimes," Manly said on Wednesday. "Late last night and this morning we felt very confident that this was the suspect.”
The bombings began on March 2 when Anthony Stephan House, 39, was killed by a package bomb at his East Austin home. Ten days later, 17-year-old Draylen Mason was killed and his mother injured in another explosion. Esperanza Herrera was injured while visiting her mother at a different address.
On March 18, two men were injured in southwest Austin when they detonated a bomb police believe to have been activated by a tripwire.
Just two days later, the FedEx facility in Schertz was rocked by an explosion. Later that day, another suspicious package thought to contain a bomb was found at a separate FedEx facility in southeast Austin. Investigators believe the two packages were sent by the same person from a FedEx store in Sunset Valley.
Acting on tips from witnesses and around the community, Manley said officers tracked their primary suspect's vehicle to a hotel in Round Rock.
“Multiple officers from both the police department and our federal partners took up positions around the hotel awaiting the arrival of our tactical teams," said Manley. "We wanted to have ballistic vehicles here so we could attempt to take this suspect into custody as safely as possible.”
As officers watched the suspect's vehicle and waited on tactical support, Conditt began to drive away. Officers followed, and Manley said Conditt then drove the vehicle into a ditch. An unidentified SWAT officer fired on the vehicle. Conditt suspect then detonated a device inside the vehicle, killing himself and injuring one of the SWAT officers.
"The suspect is deceased and has significant injuries from a blast that occurred from detonating a bomb from inside his vehicle," said Manley, adding that while the suspect is deceased, investigators are not ruling out whether he had help from others. “Everyone needs to remain vigilant because we don’t know how the suspect spent his last 24 hours or what devices are out there," said Manley.
Manley also cautioned the public to remain cautious as the investigation continues.
Cedar Park Police spokesperson Alicia Inns said, "We are closely monitoring the situation and have offered help to APD and the Federal agencies. Our main message today is let's remain vigilant and aware as they work this investigation."
While no devices were found in the Cedar Park or Leander area, local law enforcement agencies had been monitoring the situation and encouraging the public to exercise caution during the last three weeks.
"I'm happy to see this series of incidents come to an end and bring a sense of peace and calm back to our neighborhoods," said Leander Assistant Police Chief Jeff Hayes. "There had been such tension for the past week, but who knows what we're going to learn... The natural tendency is to completely relax after what we've learned (but) the investigation is ongoing so everyone should remain vigilant and adopt some of the habits that we were force to learn over the last few weeks."
Hayes echoed the sentiments of many of those in law enforcement on Wednesday morning, saying, "I do hope now the the community can get back to a new normal. It was at the forefront of people's minds-you couldn't go anywhere without hearing people talk about it, or mention it to me."