Austin Bombings & Unabomber: Similarities & Differences


ted kaczynski, theodore kaczynski, unabomber

Ted Kaczynski, the Unabomber.

The Austin bombings have terrified the Texas community, with four devices detonating throughout the city in March 2018, killing two promising young men and injuring two others. The modus operandi reminds some people of the Unabomber, Ted Kaczynski, who is sitting in a federal prison for a series of notorious letter mail bombings.

According to federal prison records, Kaczynski, now 75, is housed at the Florence ADMAX USP in Colorado and is serving a life sentence. Are the bombings really that similar? How does the Unabomber case compare to the Austin situation? There are some similarities, but there are also a lot of differences, at least so far.

Here’s what you need to know:

Both Situations Involved Relatively Complex Devices

Some experts familiar with the Unabomber’s crimes see similarities to what’s happening in Austin, particularly because of the level of sophistication needed to create such devices.

Danny Coulson, a former FBI assistant director, said “there is no doubt that comparisons between the recent Austin, Texas package explosions and the Unabomber case are appropriate,” reported Fox News.

“The Unabomber’s bombs were very complicated, they were mainly constructed of wood. They were very effective,” Coulson said. “I think we have a similar situation here,” he said.

A package bomb expert named Ben West told KXAN-TV that the Austin devices require some sophistication. “Because you can make a bomb then place it in a package and then rig it to explode at a specific time. So no, it’s not easy to do,” said West to the TV station. He drew a comparison to the Unabomber, saying such package devices are rare in the U.S. and usually have a criminal or political motivation in other countries.

In both cases, the attackers may enjoy toying with those in authority. In the case of the Unabomber, he “even threatened media outlets, such as The New York Times, to publish his so-called ‘Unabomber Manifesto,’ telling them he would blow up a plane if they failed to do so,” reports. The Austin bomber is believed to have struck again right after the Austin police chief urged the attacker to come forward so authorities could understand his or her motives.

There Are Multiple Differences in Time Frame, Method & Possibly Motive

The Unabomber became legendary in part because he wasn’t caught for so long. The Unabomber’s crime spree lasted from 1978 to 1995. His terrorism spanned 17 years and consisted of “mailed letter bombs” that killed three people and wounded 23 others in different areas of the country, according to The Washington Post. Ted Kaczynski was a child math phenom who hated modern technology and who hit “people on the cutting edge of technological advances,” such as a geneticist, professor, and computer stores, The Post reported. He was born in Chicago and lived in a Montana cabin in the woods.

He also targeted airlines.

The Austin bomber’s motive is not clear; however, the first three victims were ethnic minorities (both men who died are from prominent African-American families), leading some to argue there is a hate crime motive. The third attack wounded a Hispanic woman. The fourth attack, if indeed triggered by a trip wire, would appear more random in nature. The Unabomber wrote a lengthy manifesto; there is no evidence of such writings in Austin, at least not yet. The attacker appears to be more parochial, at least thus far; his or her attacks appear confined to a singular city.

The Austin bomber has, as far as anyone knows, been active for a month: March 2018. Police believe the bomber (or bombers) has likely struck four times in Austin. In three of those cases, packages were left that people opened. In the fourth case, on March 18, 2018, people now say that a “trip wire” may have been used to detonate a device that wounded two men who were either pushing or riding bicycles down the sidewalk. The carnage: Two dead (Draylen Mason and Anthony House) and four injured. The Austin attacker remains at large.

In the Austin cases, the packages were not mailed. They were left on people’s doorsteps, according to The New York Times. More than two dozen people have been wounded by package bombs in the last three decades in the U.S., not counting the Unabomber cases, The Times reported.