Police warn of 'suspicious' packages as more explosions rock Austin

Monday , March 12, 2018 - 12:40 PM

Amy B Wang

(c) 2018, The Washington Post.

Emergency officials in Austin reported an explosion late Monday morning, the third such incident in two weeks - and the second of the day.

On March 2, a 39-year-old man in northeast Austin was killed after a package on his front porch exploded, police said.

Early Monday, police responded to a similar package explosion at a home on the east side of the city.

Upon arrival, police found two injured victims inside the home: One, a 17-year-old male, later died, while the other, an adult female, was taken to the hospital with injuries. Police said that incident was being investigated as a homicide.

Then, shortly before noon, local time, police responded to a third explosion, this time on the southeast side of the city.

Austin-Travis County EMS said on Twitter that a patient - a woman in her 70s - was taken to a hospital “with serious potentially life threatening injuries.”

Austin Police Chief Brian Manley warned residents to avoid opening unexpected packages.

“If you receive a package that you are not expecting or looks suspicious, DO NOT open it, call 911 immediately,” he tweeted.

Authorities had said they believe the first two explosions are linked.

Both took place in the morning hours, and in both cases, the package was not delivered through the U.S. Postal Service, authorities said.

In addition, both of the homes belonged to African Americans, Manley told reporters Monday morning.

“So we cannot rule out that hate crime is at the core of this; but we’re not saying that that’s the cause as well,” the police chief said.

Manley, who reportedly was on the scene of Monday’s first explosion when he was called to the second, said local and federal law enforcement agencies would ensure “every stop would be pulled out” to solve the cases.

“We are not going to tolerate this in Austin,” he said.

The Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives said Monday it was dispatching members of its National Response Team (NRT) to help respond to the explosions.

According to the agency, this group activates for “significant fire and explosion incidents,” considered those that are either large in scale or particularly complicated due to the size or scope. In the past, that has included responding to the West, Tex., plant fire in 2013; a string of church fires in Texas; and the bombings in Oklahoma City and at the 1996 Olympic Games in Atlanta.

The NRT works with other investigators to reconstruct scenes and determine what caused the fires or explosions; in cases involving bombings, the team also searches for evidence to be used in any prosecution that may follow.

The FBI field office in San Antonio also said it was assisting Austin police with the investigation.


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