AUSTIN, Texas - Three explosions that occurred when people picked up packages outside their residences appear to be connected,Austin Police Chief Brian Manley said Monday at a news conference.
A Monday morning explosion killed a 17-year-old African-American boy and also injured a woman at the house.
A second Monday explosion left a 75-year-old Hispanic woman in critical condition, the chief said. A March 2 blast killed a 39-year-old African-American man.
All the explosions occurred when people who lived at the residences went outside and picked up packages, Manley said.
The packages were not delivered by the postal service or delivery services like UPS or FedEx, he said.
"The evidence makes us believe these incidents are related," he said, saying investigators have not come up with a motive or whether anybody has claimed responsibility. It's not known if the victims knew each other or if they were targeted, he said.
Police also have not decided if these are hate crimes, but said that's a real possibility of the victims' races.
"We're not ruling anything out at this point," he said. "We're willing to investigate any avenue."
Authorities have only identified one victim. Anthony Stephan House, 39, died from injuries in the March 2 explosion, police said. The elderly woman injured today sustained life-threatening injuries, the chief said.
In describing the Monday morning blast that killed the teenager, the chief said: "What we understand at this point is that early this morning is that one of the residents went out front and there was a package on the front doorstep.
They brought that package inside the residence and 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."
The female's injuries were not life-threatening, he said.
Manley strongly urged residents to be on the lookout for suspicious packages and to alert authorities immediately.
"If you've received a package that has been left on your doorstep or left in your yard or left on your driveway that you were not expecting or that was not from someone you know, then give us a call," Manley said.
Likewise, he urged the thousands of visitors in town -- many at the South by Southwest Interactive Festival -- to be cautious. "Enjoy yourself, have a good time," he said. "But be aware, be suspicious."
The festival began Friday in downtown Austin and ends Tuesday. The explosions are not in the immediate vicinity of the festival.
Reward offered for information leading to arrest(s):
Gov. Greg Abbott's office issued a statement on Monday that said a reward of $15,000 is being offered for information leading to the identification and arrest of the person or persons involved in the deadly package blasts.
"First and foremost, Cecilia and I offer our thoughts and prayers to the victims of these atrocious attacks," said Governor Abbott. "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. As the investigation continues, the State of Texas will provide any resources necessary to ensure the safety of our citizens, and quickly bring those guilty to justice."
To be eligible for a cash reward, tips must be submitted to Texas Crime Stoppers using one of the following methods:
- Call the Texas Crime Stoppers hotline at 1-800-252-TIPS (8477)
- Text the letters "DPS"- followed by your tip – to 274637 (CRIMES)
- Submit a web tip through the website
- Submit a tip through the DPS Mobile App
- All tips are guaranteed to be anonymous regardless of submission type.
Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton urged all Texans to be cautious. "With three reported explosions in the Austin area, I want to urge all Texans to report any suspicious or unexpected packages arriving by mail to local law enforcement authorities. Call 911 immediately if you receive something suspicious," he said on Twitter.
Be safe this Spring Festival season. Remember, if you see something, say something. You can report an anonymous tip at: https://t.co/aiQg96ffcX pic.twitter.com/lwT897trBW — Austin Texas (@austintexasgov) March 12, 2018
Local police, as well as agencies including the FBI, and the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives, are working on the case.
The ATF is processing evidence from the first device at its lab and evidence from the second device will also be sent to an ATF lab for consistency.
Copyright 2018 by CNN NewSource. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.