AUSTIN—The bomber who terrorized the Texas capital is dead, authorities said, but why he chose to kill and maim is not known.
Mark Anthony Conditt of Pflugerville, Texas, blew himself up Wednesday morning after police cornered him in a vehicle after tracking him to a local hotel, police said. Authorities said they were led to Conditt, 23, based on evidence gathered from a FedEx store where he shipped two parcel bombs on Monday.
Five bombs have killed two people and injured four across the Texas capital since March 2. Another bomb exploded at a FedEx sorting facility outside San Antonio just after midnight Tuesday. Police said another, undetonated bomb was recovered hours later at another FedEx facility in Austin. Both parcels were sent from Austin to locations in Austin.
Conditt made a 25-minute video on his phone explaining how he built the seven bombs, Austin Police Chief Brian Manley told reporters Wednesday evening. Manley called it a “confession” and said Conditt did not say why killed.
“It is the outcry of a very challenged young man talking about the challenges in his life,” Manley said.
Conditt’s family said in a statement: “We had no idea of the darkness that Mark must have been in.”
Austin Police Department homicide officers and FBI agents were at Conditt’s parents’ home on Wednesday afternoon where David Fugitt said the family was inside with a few close friends.
“They’re going through a very hard time, as you can imagine,” he said.
Rift between bomber and father
Two years ago, Mark Conditt and his father bought the property on 2nd Street in Pflugerville, a suburn of Austin, with plans of remodeling it.
Across the street lives Mark Roessler, with his his wife and son. Rosseler said he’d often see Conditt and his father working on the house during the year-long remodeling project and was invited over to check their progress once or twice.
Roessler became familiar with William Conditt, whom he describes as “a loving father who cared a lot about his son.” Roessler said the house project was an attempt to also rebuild the relationship between William and Mark, which William had indicated was strained.
“He said I’m just really enjoying spending a lot of time with my son. This is our project and we’re building it together,” Roessler said Conditt’s father told him.
Roessler and his wife began their Wednesday morning getting ready for work, and turned on the news, curious, like so many other locals, if there was any update on the serial bomber case. A news reporter announced they were outside the bomber’s residence. In the background of the shot, Roessler said he recognized his local church, down the street from his home. So he walked outside and was swiftly greeted by police.
“They jumped out of their car and immediately have me put my hands up,” Roessler said.
FBI agents then asked Roessler to sketch a layout of the property for their SWAT team, he said. Roessler watched from his back window as ten guys in “pretty serious tactical gear” circled the house. A heavy-duty truck plowed the red pickup in Conditt’s driveway aside to clear the area, Roessler said.
“Residents of the 403 property, we are here to serve a warrant,” Roessler heard the FBI announce. “Please come out of the house.”
A man Roessler had never seen before exited the house, looking like he’d just woken up. Police apprehended the man and placed him in handcuffs, Roessler said.
Texas Gov. Greg Abbott said in a television interview Wednesday that Conditt was living with roommates, who were being questioned by police. Abbott said officials found a “treasure trove” of information at the home. The house is owned by his father, according to the Austin American-Statesman.
Conditt’s neighbor Hector Del Valle, 42, said 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’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.”
Opinionated and ‘rough around the edges’
In blog posts from 2012, a Mark Conditt from the suspect’s hometown identified himself as conservative, albeit not politically engaged. He wrote in favor of the death penalty, and against gay marriage and abortion.
Writing in favor of the death penalty for a convicted murderer, Conditt wrote “if he had wanted or wished for death, he would have just shot himself.”
A neighbor told the Statesman that Conditt was home-schooled and then went to Austin Community College. A spokesperson for the Austin Community College confirmed to the El Paso Times that Conditt attended the school from 2010 to 2012 but did not graduate.
According to a Facebook photo posted by his mother, Danene Conditt, her son graduated from high school in February 2013. Either way, Conditt’s mother wrote her son was “thinking of taking some time to figure out what he wants to do.”
A friend from Conditt's homeschool community told the Statesman that Conditt had been "rough around the edges" in high school.
“He was a very assertive person and would… end up being kind of dominant and intimidating in conversation," the friend, Jeremiah Jensen, said. "A lot of people didn’t understand him and where he was coming from."
Jensen said he did not know why Conditt may have placed the bombs, but speculated that he had "succumbed to hatred of some sort," and that Conditt may have been isolated after finishing homeschool.
“It’s just very difficult for a lot of kids to find a way to fit in once they are out in the real world,” Jensen said. “I have a feeling that is what happened with Mark. I don’t remember him ever being sure of what he wanted to do.”
Conditt reportedly worked as a computer-repair technician and then at Crux Semiconductor in Austin as a “purchasing agent/buyer/shipping and receiving,” according to a profile on a job-recruiting website viewed by the Statesman. A woman who answered the door said she couldn’t comment.
A public records search by The Daily Beast found that Conditt had no criminal records in the misdemeanor or felony courts of Travis County, which includes Austin and Pflugerville.
Conditt was reportedly wearing a disguise when he walked into the FedEx store to drop of the packages, according to KVUE-TV, but police were still able to gather enough information about his appearance from surveillance footage to identify him, before obtaining a search warrant on his Google search history and locating his home address.
An arrest warrant for Conditt was issued Tuesday by a federal judge, charging him with one count of “Unlawful Possession and Transfer of a Destructive Device.” The complaint cites evidence from an affidavit, which remains under seal, as the investigation is still under way.