Austin Bombings: Police Chief reflects on 3-week manhunt

A year has passed since a series of bombs terrorized the city of Austin. The attacks killed two people and seriously injured five others.

A Series of Package Bombs

On March 2, a package bomb was placed on 39-year-old Anthony Stephan House's front porch in East Austin, killing him. At the time, Austin police thought there was no further threat to the public. Detectives had a theory the attack stemmed from a drug raid at another home on Haverford Lane.

Ten days later, a second package was delivered to 17-year-old Draylen Mason's home - killing him and injuring his mother. A third explosion happened the same day sending 75-year-old Esperanza Herrera. "It was in that moment that you immediately recognize that your city is under attack and that you have a bomber that is taking lives," Chief Manley said.               

More than 500 federal agencies assisted and a command center was in motion.

The bomber's motive was called into question. Why attack East Austin? Why were all the victim’s minorities? The police department began warning the public about suspicious packages not being sent through the mail. Donations poured in for victims of the Austin explosions.

Trip Wire Bomb

On March 18th, two men riding their bikes in southwest Austin triggered a trip wire.

The two were sent to the hospital. "It really just made us just again go back to square one and look at every possible motive behind this," Chief Manley said.

At that time there was no target victims or area of town.

Bombs Traveling through Mail

On March 20th, a package bomb detonated at a FedEx facility in Shertz, TX. Surveillance video captured the drop off. Conditt was seen wearing a blonde wig, a hat and gloves carrying not one but two packages. It then became a rush to find the second bomb package later located at a FedEx in McKinney Falls.

"Was the bomber now moving outside the geographic area of the city of Austin which would pose for a more difficult investigation," said Manley.

The security video was a pivotal point for investigators they were able to get Conditt’s license plate, cell phone data and DNA they had all the evidence they needed to make an arrest.

The Chase

Plans to take Conditt into custody were in motion.

"We pretty much sent everyone home to get rest and I found myself not able to leave but instead just thinking through the day’s activities thinking about the fact that we had identified our bomber but we did not yet have him in custody,” said Manley. “Really praying that he wasn't out there planting more bombs or doing harm to anyone."

The department typed up search warrants expecting to raid Conditt’s home in Pflugerville and as standard protocol EMS was going to be on standby. Chief Manley said miscommunication between EMS and the command center sent first responders directly to Conditt’s home. In the midst of the confusion, a first responder knocked on the door and spoke to Conditt’s roommate.

Conditt’s roommate called out to a second person in the house asking if they called 911. "In the end we did not plan for nor want to happen because that's extremely dangerous in the end it gave us some information though that we knew the person who answered the door was not our bomber but we didn't know whether that second voice beside the home was potentially our bomber," Manley said.

The serial bomber was not home, surveillance teams located him in a parking lot in Round Rock. Helicopters followed as a chase ensued on I-35 and ended when law enforcement closed in.

Conditt set off a bomb in his car killing himself.

A Taped Confession

On March 21, Conditt knew he was being pursued by police and left a 25-minute recorded confession on his cellphone. “He does not at all mention anything about terrorism nor does he mention anything about hate but instead it was the outcry of a very challenged young man, talking about challenges in his personal life that led him to this point," said Manley. 

Conditt didn’t leave a motive, leaving the city wondering why someone would do such a thing. Manley said the department will not release the recoding because it would do more harm than good.

"I think you come away from an incident like this with a lot of lessons learned I hope no community in our country or in any country to that affect goes through this,” said Manley. “This was unprecedented here but the lives that were taken from our community, the families that have been forever changed, the loss that has been suffered, you just can't put words to that.” 



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