Two people have died and two others suffered serious and potentially life-threatening injuries after a series of package explosions in Austin, Texas, authorities say. There have been three blasts in the city since March 2, including two within hours of each other on March 12, police said.
The three explosions have not yet been confirmed to be related, but Austin Police Chief Brian Manley told reporters that similarities between the incidents have led investigators to believe they are connected.
The first explosion happened about 6:55 a.m. on March 2 in the 1100 block of Haverford Drive, police said. A 39-year-old man, Anthony Stephan House, was killed. The second explosion occurred on March 12 about 6:45 a.m. in the 4800 block of Oldfort Hill Drive. That blast killed a 17-year-old boy and sent a woman in her 40s to the hospital with serious injuries. The third blast happened about 11:50 a.m. in the 6700 block of Galindo Street. A woman in her 70s was taken to the hospital with serious and potentially life-threatening injuries, authorities said.
The Austin Police Department, the FBI, the ATF and the U.S. Postal Inspection Service are investigating, along with other agencies. A joint task force is being set up.
Here’s what you need to know:
1. The Police Chief Warned Residents, ‘If You Receive a Package That You Are Not Expecting or Looks Suspicious, Do Not Open it, Call 911 Immediately’
Police have told residents of Austin to be aware of their surroundings and report anything that is suspicious, especially an unexpected package. Police Chief Brian Manley said at a press conference that all of the explosions have occurred at residents.
“If you receive a package that you are not expecting or looks suspicious, DO NOT open it, call 911 immediately,” Police Chief Brian Manley tweeted.
The packages that exploded in the first two incidents were not sent through the U.S. Postal Service and appear to have been dropped off at the home, Manley said. Private carriers, like UPS and FedEx, also told police that they have no record of deliveries to either of the homes. Information about the package in the third blast is still being determined, authorities said.
Austin Police are already stretched thin because of the SXSW music, film and technology conference, which will be in the city until March 18. Manley said they have received offers from other agencies for support. He also sent a message to those in Austin for SXSW, saying that they should be aware and alert of what is going on, but said it is not believed there is any threat to the conference.
2. House Was Killed in the Blast That Occurred Early in the Morning of March 2 at His Haverford Drive Home, Police Say
Anthony Stephan House, 39, was killed in the first explosion on March 2 in the 1100 block of Haverford Drive. The blast occurred about 6:55 a.m.
“Right now we are trying to determine how did the package get there and who was the intended target,” Assistant Police Chief Joseph Chacon said on March 5, after House’s name was released. “We do feel like this was targeted at somebody.”
House was rushed to the hospital, where he died.
“That case was being investigated as a suspicious death,” Police Chief Brian Manley said on March 12. “It is now being reclassified and is now a homicide investigation as well. We are looking at these incidents as being related based on similarities that we have seen and the initial evidence that we have on hand here today compared to what we found on the scene of that explosion that took place a week back.”
3. The Second Blast Caused ‘Significant’ Damage at a Home Where Neighbors Say a ‘Very Good,’ ‘Church-Going’ Family Lives
The second explosion occurred on March 12 about 6:45 a.m. in the 4800 block of Oldfort Hill Drive, authorities said. It happened in a single-family house and appears to have been caused by a package that was placed on the porch. The explosion caused “significant” damage to the home, Police Chief Brian Manley said.
“What we understand at this point is that earlier this morning, residents went out front, and there was a package on the front doorstep,” Manley said at a press conference. “They brought that package inside the residence and as they opened that package, both victims were in the kitchen and the package exploded causing the injuries that resulted in the young man’s death and the injuries to the adult female.”
Manley added, “The damage is significant, and there’s a lot of evidence that needs to be collected.”
Neighbor Cynthia Burdett told Fox 7 Austin that she was in “total shock,” and said the incident was “very scary.” She told the news station her neighbors are “church going” people who are a “very good family.”
4. Few Details Have Been Released About the Third Explosion, Which Occurred About 6 Miles Away From the Second Blast & About 16 Miles From the First Apparent Bombing
Few details have been released about the third explosion, which sent an elderly woman to the hospital with serious and possibly life-threatening injuries, authorities said. Another woman, in her 80s, was evaluated at the scene, but was not injured in the blast, Austin-Travis County EMS said.
The explosion occurred about 11:50 a.m., about an hour after police and the FBI held a briefing at the scene of the other March 12 explosion. Austin Police Chief Brian Manley and other officials left the first scene to head to the second, which was in the 6700 block of Galindo Street. Few details about the incident have been released.
The Galindo Street home is about 16 miles away from the Haverford Drive home where the first explosion occurred on March 2. It is about 6 miles away from the Oldfort Hill Drive home where the second explosion occurred.
Authorities have still not connected the third explosion to either of the other two blasts.
5. Chief Manley Said Austin ‘Will Not Tolerate This’ & Said That While No Motive Is Known, Both Fatal Blasts Occurred at Homes of Black Residents, So Authorities ‘Cannot Rule Out That Hate Crime Is at the Core of This’
At a press conference Monday morning, after the second blast and before the third, Chief Brian Manley said, “We will not tolerate this in Austin,” adding that, “you have seen every stop will be pulled out… the federal agencies are with us to lend us a hand and to bring this to as quick as a resolution as possible.”
He also said, “We are looking at these incidents as being related based on similarities that we have seen and the initial evidence that we have on hand here,
Manley said that a possible motive is not yet known. But he did note that the victims in the first two explosions are black. It is not known if the third victim is also black. “We cannot rule out that hate crime is at the core of this, but we’re not saying that’s the cause as well,” he told reporters.
Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton tweeted, “With three reported explosions in the Austin area, I want to urge all Texans to report any suspicious or unexpected packages arriving by mail to local law enforcement authorities. Call 9-1-1 immediately if you receive something suspicious.”
The FBI San Antonio field office said it is assisting in the investigation. The ATF said its National Response Team will be responding to join the investigation.