The Slatest

Austin Police Say String of Package Bombs Are the Work of Someone With “Skill and Sophistication”

Police on the scene near Galindo Street in Austin, Texas.
The scene near the street in Austin, Texas, where a woman in her 70s was injured in an explosion on March 12.
Suzanne Cordiero/Getty Images

Authorities in Austin, Texas, are now saying with greater confidence that the three explosions that occurred in the past couple weeks are linked and are the work of one or more people with “a certain level of skill and sophistication.”

Austin police chief Brian Manley said Tuesday that each of the three bombings—two of which occurred Monday and the third of which occurred on March 2—involved a package that exploded at a home when a resident attempted to bring it inside.

The authorities are still looking into any motivation or connection among the victims. The man who was killed on March 2 was a 39-year-old black man named Anthony Stephan House. The 17-year-old boy who was killed in the first bombing Monday was also black. The woman who sustained serious injuries from the other explosion on Monday is a 75-year-old Hispanic woman identified as Esperanza Herrera. Manley said that police are looking into whether the bombings could have been a hate crime.

Relatives told the Washington Post that the victims of the first two bombings were related to prominent members of the city’s black community. “It’s not just coincidental,” House’s stepfather told the Post. “They went and got one of my best friend’s grandson. Somebody’s done their homework on both of us, and they knew what they were doing.”

Police, however, do not know of a motive or even if the victims were the intended targets of the attacks, Manley said. To help the investigation, the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms, and Explosives sent its National Response Team to Austin. Texas Gov. Greg Abbott also issued a statement offering a $15,000 reward for information that would lead to the arrest of the perpetrator or perpetrators.

The bombings occurred while the city swelled with visitors coming for the South by Southwest Festival. Police said they believe the timing is coincidental.

The bombings have put residents of Austin on edge, and police warned anyone who receives a package they didn’t expect to call 911. According to Manley, between Monday morning and Tuesday morning, police responded to more than 150 calls related to packages, none of which were dangerous.

Molly Olmstead is a Slate assistant social media editor.