Massive investigation unfolding after Texas bombings

Police in Austin, Texas, are looking for answers and urging people to be cautious around unexpected packages after a series of bomb blasts left two dead and several injured.

2 dead, 4 seriously injured after string of explosions

Authorities work on the scene of an explosion in Austin on Monday, March 12. Two package bomb blasts a few kilometres apart killed a teenager and wounded two women in the city that day, less than two weeks after a similar attack left a man dead in another part of the Texas capital. (Ricardo B. Brazziell/Austin American-Statesman/Associated Press)

Police in Texas are looking for answers and urging people to be cautious around unexpected packages after a series of bomb blasts left two dead and four people seriously injured. Four of the blasts happened in the state capital, Austin, while another explosion happened inside a FedEx facility near San Antonio.

Hundreds of law enforcement officers are on the case, scrambling to find out who is behind the package bombs that have left people in Austin on edge.

1st explosion

The first call to police came the morning of Friday, March 2, after an explosion on Haverford Drive.

Anthony Stephan House was the first victim in a string of package bombings. (Austin Police Department )

Anthony Stephan House, 39, was treated at the scene, but died at hospital that same morning.

At the time, police issued a statement saying: "Based on information gathered so far, we believe this is an isolated incident and that there is no continuing threat to the community."

2nd explosion

Ten days after the blast that killed House, police got reports of another package bomb. In the early morning hours of Monday, March 12, a call came in about a blast on Oldfort Hill Drive in Austin.

"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," police Chief Brian Manley said at the time.

Draylen Mason, 17, was killed by the explosion. His mother, 41, was seriously injured.

Manley said the Austin Police Department's homicide division was investigating, as was the FBI. The Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives was also called in, as it had been for the March 2 blast.

The U.S. Postal Service checked its records and didn't believe the package came through its service. Police were checking with other delivery services, but the chief said "the initial indication from them is that this was not a package that was delivered by any mail service." 

The chief said there were similarities to the March 2 blast, which also happened in the early morning hours. 

Draylon Mason died after a package bomb that had been left on his family's doorstep exploded. (Austin Police Department)

"We are looking at anything that might tie these two together," the chief said, saying that though it was early in the investigation, it appeared the two incidents were related.

Police said they didn't yet have a motive, but weren't ruling out the possibility of a hate crime, saying both homes were owned by African Americans.

"We're not saying that's the cause as well, we're just acknowledging and looking at any possible motivations that would link these two cases together."

3rd explosion 

The third blast — and the second to hit on March 12 — left a 75-year-old Hispanic woman seriously injured.

An FBI agent walks towards the crime scene after an explosion near north Galindo Street, which was the second blast to hit in the city that day. (Sergio Flores/Reuters)

She was wounded around 11:45 a.m. after handling a package that had been left at her home on the 6700 block of Galindo Street, police said.

The police said it wasn't immediately clear if the victims were the intended targets, as the packages were being left in an area where more than one person could pick them up.

The police chief urged people to be cautious around unexpected packages and to "be aware" of what they are seeing.

"If you see something that looks out of place, if you see something that is suspicious, call us," he said.

During the news conference for the Galindo Street bombing, the police offered some detail about the devices, saying they were of average size, "box-type" deliveries.

After the third blast, police said they still had no descriptions of vehicles or suspects.

4th explosion

The fourth blast hit at night.

It happened around 8:30 p.m. on March 18, in the Travis Country area. The next morning, police confirmed that two young men had been injured by an explosion while walking along the side of a road.

The men, aged 22 and 23, were in hospital in stable condition, but with "significant" injuries, police said. 

Police said that they believed a tripwire may have been used on the most recent blast.

5th blast hits FedEx site

A fifth explosion happened in the early hours of Tuesday, March 20, at a FedEx shipping site near San Antonio when a package exploded on a conveyor belt and caused minor injuries to a worker.

FBI agents investigate the scene at a FedEx distribution centre where a package exploded on Tuesday in Schertz, outside San Antonio, Texas. It is the fifth device to explode in recent weeks in the state. (Eric Gay/Associated Press)

The attorney general of Texas, Ken Paxton, said the package that exploded had been sent from an Austin address and was being sent to an Austin residence.

The investigation is growing. According to The Associated Press, as of Monday there were already: 

  • Approximately 350 FBI agents involved with the investigation, and hundreds of other law enforcement personnel working on the case.
  • Approximately 240 interviews have been conducted with witnesses, people calling in tips and others since the first explosion.
  • Police in Austin have responded to around 600 calls for suspicions packages since the second and third blasts.

The reward for a tip leading to the identification of a suspect has been set at $100,000 US, along with another $15,000 reward from the governor's office.

With files from CBC's Jennifer Walter and The Associated Press