Austin Serial Bombing Suspect Dead
Special to NNPA from NOKOA The Observer
By Akwasi Evans
The suspected serial bomber who terrorized Austin and baffled police for the first three weeks of March died early Wednesday morning by detonating a bomb as police SWAT officer’s approached his car.
Over 500 local and federal law enforcement personnel had been feverishly searching for a serial bomber whose packages killed one Black man on March 2, a talented African American teenager on March 12 and seriously injured an elderly Latina that same afternoon with similar package bombs.
Friday, March 2, 2018 at approximately 6:55 a.m., Austin 911 responded to a call about an explosion at 1112 Haverford Dr. Austin Fire and EMS arrived on scene and immediately began attending to Anthony Stephan House. House, 39, was transported to Round Rock Hospital here he was pronounced deceased at 7:48 a.m. The death was first investigated as suspicious and later changed to a homicide. Acting Chief Brian Manley also later said police were not ruling out the possibility of a hate crime. Austin NAACP President Nelson Linder shared his suspicion that the murder was drug related. Linder said there was a large drug bust on Havenford Dr. two weeks prior to the bombing and he suspect a relationship between the bombing and the money and drugs seized in that raid. Linder told NOKOA that police have refused to respond to request for information about what was confiscated during the drug raid.
Ten days later, on March 12, at approximately 6:54 a.m. Draylen Mason walked outside his home on Oldfort Hill Drive in NE Austin, picked up a brown box sitting in his front yard and took it inside. As Mason began to remove the rapping paper a massive bomb exploding killing the teen instantly and severely injuring his mother who was in another room. Both Young and Mason are African American and fear spread quickly through Austin’s Black community as activists organizations rushed to host town hall meetings and vigils in reaction to their fears. All of Austin was put on high alert and everyone was warned to be wary of any suspicious packages. While police, FBI and Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms (ATF) combed the neighborhood for clue in the Mason killing word came in of another bombing in the 6700 block of Galindo Street in SE Austin. Esperanza Herrera, 75, spotted a package while walking in her yard and when she touched the box it exploded. The 75-year-old woman was badly injured in the explosion. Her 90-year old mother, Maria Moreno, who was in the house suffered minor injuries.
The entire investigation revolved around bombs placed on private property until early Monday when two young White men were bicycling off Dawn Hill Road and were blown off the road when their tires hit a trip wire that triggering Austin fourth bombing injury.
While investigations were piecing together their evidence and trying to make connection between the four separate bombing several officers and agents were diverted to a FedEx office, in Schertz, about 30 miles south of San Antonio where a fifth bomb had detonated in the middle of the night. The package had an Austin shipping address and an Austin destination. The recipient of that package was warned of the danger, but their identity has not been revealed. The next morning police were called about a suspicious package that had been dropped off at the FedEx office in Sunset Valley. Surveillance footage included one customer entering the store that walking toward the conveyer belt and extending a brown box that he placed gently on the table with plastic gloves. The man was also wearing a stringy white under a baseball cap.
The suspect was identified as Mark Anthony Conditt of Pflugerville. He had purchased bomb-making materials from the local Home Depot and law enforcement had his accessed cell phone information.
Around 1:00 a.m., Wednesday morning investigations were alerted to a ping from Conditt’s cell phone in the north part of town. As an army of officers closed in on Conditt’s red jeep in the parking lot of a Red Roof in on IH-35 the suspected bomber sped out of the parking lot and accelerated south toward IH35. As the jeep entered the access road to the interstate, two large white vans forces the jeep into a ditch. As SWAT officers cautiously approached the vehicle an explosion injuring one of the officers. Another SWAT officer fired striking the suspect, but police say Conditt died of injuries from the bomb.
FBI, ATF and APD officers cordoned off several blocks around Conditt’s residence and a later searched of the Pflugerville house revealed bomb making material and a 25-minute video confession stating seven bombs he had made seven bombs.
Police said Conditt did not have military training, but have not said how he got the bomb making skills. They have interview both of his roommates. One has been released.
In a Wednesday evening press conference Governor Greg Abbott, Mayor Steve Adler, FBI, ATF and APD officials all assured the community the bomb threat was over. All agreed the bombings were not caused by a terrorist or a hate monger. They say the serial killer was “just a very disturbed young man,” who killed two, injured four and held an entire city hostage for much of the month of March.
Akwasi Evans is a NNPA member and the publisher of NOKOA The Observer Newspaper in Austin, Texas. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or called at (512) 499-8713