The man responsible for terrorizing Austin over the past few weeks with a series of bombs is finally dead, police say.
Officers were trying to arrest the man early Wednesday morning when he killed himself with an explosive device inside his own car while fleeing authorities, Austin Police Chief Brian Manley said at an early-morning press conference.
“We don’t know where this suspect has spent his last 24 hours, and therefore we need to remain vigilant to be sure no other packages have been left throughout the community,” Manley said.
Police have not yet publicly identified the suspect but said he was a 24-year-old white male.
“We believe this individual is responsible for all of the incidents in Austin,” Manley said, noting that police are still investigating the possibility of accomplices out of an abundance of caution.
Police are reportedly at the man’s home residence nearby.
42-year-old Hector Del Valle, who lives down the block from the scene, told The Daily Beast on Wednesday that he first heard helicopters when he woke up at 6 a.m. to get his kids ready for school.
“There's a state trooper in my driveway, and they probably have about half a mile blocked off all the way around,” Del Valle, a hairstylist, said over the phone. “I took my kids to school and just came back home.”
“I'm hoping that it's all over,” he added. “It’s crazy to think he lived right down the street. This is a really quiet neighborhood, like one of the safest cities to live in and it's insane that this guy lived here.”
President Trump tweeted early Wednesday, “Great job by law enforcement and all concerned!”
Authorities reportedly tracked down the bomber using information gleaned from the FedEx package bombs he sent, one of which detonated in a facility near San Antonio early Tuesday morning.
Evidence at a FedEx store in southwest Austin contained security footage of the man and store receipts obtained by a search warrant showing “suspicious” transactions, the Austin American-Statesman reported. His Google search history also allegedly showed he was looking for information on where to go to ship the devices. Using cellphone technology, authorities reportedly traced him to a hotel in Williamson County, just outside of Austin.
“We know when he bought some of the components...It was fairly recently,” said Fred Milanowski, special agent in charge with the ATF. “Fortunately we were able to do some digging and find this individual over the past 48 hours.”
The Texas capital has been on edge since the first explosion on March 2 killed 39-year-old Anthony Stephan House, who opened a package that police say had been hand-delivered to his front porch. Ten days later, 17-year-old Draylen Mason was killed and his mother was seriously injured by another package bomb, also delivered to their doorstep. Hours later, a 75-year-old woman was wounded when she opened a similar package at her own home. The fourth bomb on Sunday wounded two men in their early twenties who were walking on a residential street in southwest Austin. In that case, the bomber used a tripwire detonator anchored by a yard sign.
Experts told The Daily Beast that the bomber had—with the use of the tripwire—displayed a higher level of skill and sophistication than previously believed.
On Tuesday, a package explosion at a FedEx facility outside of San Antonio was linked to the other cases, and the company later said the “individual responsible” for the facility explosion “also shipped a second package that has now been secured and turned over to law enforcement.” That package was discovered at a FedEx building in south Austin before it had detonated.
Former ATF agent Malcolm Brady told The Daily Beast on Tuesday that the bomber’s “success” over the past several days was not an accident.
“He’s a smart man that can put these devices together and not kill himself,” said Brady. “Obviously he’s been reading.”
Brady, who supervised the 1993 World Trade Center bombing case, added: “They may get a little more sophisticated, but with any luck, he’ll blow himself up.”
Manley said on Wednesday that the families of the victims should know the community still stands with them.
“Our heart remains with you as you go through your healing process in your time of sorrow,” he said. “We stand by you and with you in your time of need.”
“This is the culmination of three very long weeks for our community.”