After fourth bombing, Austin police believe they’re dealing with a “serial bomber”

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A fourth bombing in Austin on Sunday night has placed Texas’ capital city even more on edge, with two more people seriously injured and police describing what could be a new method used to set off the most recent explosion. 

“We are clearly dealing with what we expect to be a serial bomber,” said Brian Manley, Austin’s interim police chief.

In a press conference Monday morning, Manley said a tripwire mechanism appears to have been used in the most recent blast. That indicates a higher level of sophistication by the bomber than police had previously seen, and also a new level of randomness in the attacks, Manley said. 

“What we have seen here is a significant change from what appeared to be three targeted attacks to an attack that could have harmed anyone,” Manley said. 

The most recent bombing happened in a neighborhood in the southwest portion of Austin. Manley said that a 22-year-old man and a 23-year-old man were walking near a fence when they inadvertently set off the bomb. Both were seriously injured and remained hospitalized late Monday morning. Police said their conditions were stable. 

Several things were different in this attack. For one, police said the bombing appeared less targeted. In the prior three cases, the bombs appeared to be packages left at specific houses. In addition, the victims of the most recent attacks were white. The prior victims were people of color, which had set off fears that maybe the bombings were racially motivated. 

This was also the first bombing outside of East Austin. 

Manley urged residents to be even more cautious than they have been before. Anyone could have been hurt in the most recent bombing, even children, he said. 

“The belief that we are dealing with someone who is using trip wires shows a higher level of sophistication, a higher level of skill,” Manley said. 

Two people have been killed and two others were injured in the first three bombings in East Austin, an area of the city that has historically been home to black and Hispanic residents. 

The two people killed — 39-year-old Anthony Stephan House and 17-year-old Draylen Mason — died on March 2 and March 12, respectively. Mason’s mother was also injured. 

Hours after the explosion that killed Mason, 75-year-old Esperanza Herrera also received a exploding package bomb. She was seriously injured but is expected to survive. 

Hundreds of law enforcement officers have responded to the attacks. In addition to Austin police, more than 350 FBI agents are working the case along with Texas Department of Public Safety troopers and bomb technicians from Houston and San Antonio. 

On Sunday, Manley announced a reward of $100,000 for information leading to the arrest of the person or people responsible. Gov. Greg Abbott previously said that the Office of the Governor’s Criminal Justice Division is offering an additional $15,000.

“First and foremost, Cecilia and I offer our thoughts and prayers to the victims of these atrocious attacks,” Abbott said. “I want to assure all Texans, and especially those in Austin, that local, state and federal law enforcement officials are working diligently to find those responsible for these heinous crimes.”

Talk to us: With a fourth bombing reported in Austin over the weekend, we’re interested in learning how residents are using technology to follow this story. Have you used apps like Nextdoor, Nest or Ring to track or report suspicious activities or communicate with neighbors? We’d like to talk to you. Email Alex Samuels at asamuels@texastribune.org.

This article originally appeared in The Texas Tribune at https://www.texastribune.org/2018/03/19/austin-package-bomb/.

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