Investigators believe a package bomb that killed a teenager and wounded a woman in Austin on Monday is linked to a similar bombing that killed a man elsewhere in the city this month, and they’re considering whether race was a factor because all of the victims were black.
The explosion Monday happened inside of a home near the Windsor Park neighborhood and killed a 17-year-old boy and badly wounded a woman who is expected to survive, Austin’s police Chief Brian Manley told reporters.
Shortly after the news conference ended, police were called to investigate another explosion in a different part of east Austin. Authorities haven’t said whether that explosion was also caused by a bomb.
Austin-Travis County EMS tweeted that the later blast left a woman in her 70s with potentially life-threatening injuries, and that a second woman in her 80s was being treated for an unrelated medical issue. Authorities haven’t said whether the injured woman is also black.
The explosions happened with hundreds of thousands of visitors in the city for the South by Southwest music, film and technology festival, and authorities urged the public to call the police if they receive any packages they aren’t expecting.
The first explosion on Monday happened about 12 miles (20 kilometers) from the home where a March 2 package bombing killed 39-year-old Anthony Stephan House. The March 2 blast was initially investigated as a suspicious death, but is now viewed as a homicide.
Manley said investigators believe the deadly attacks are related, as in both cases, the packages were left overnight on the victims’ doorsteps and were not mailed or sent by a delivery service. He said the U.S. Postal Service doesn’t have a record of delivering the package to the East Austin home where Monday’s explosion occurred, and that private carriers like UPS and FedEx also indicated that they had none, either.
“There are similarities that we cannot rule out that these two items are, in fact, related,” Manley said.
Manley said investigators haven’t determined a motive for the attacks, but it is possible that the victims could have been targeted because they are black.
“We don’t know what the motive behind these may be,” Manley said. “We do know that both of the homes that were the recipients of these packages belong to African-Americans, 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.”
Special Agent Michelle Lee, a San Antonio-based spokesman for the FBI, said the agency “responded to both events” and was assisting Austin police which were taking the lead on investigating. She said the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives was taking the lead on the federal investigation.
Manley said that a second package was discovered near the site of the initial Monday explosion and that some residents and media members were evacuated or pushed farther from the blast site as authorities determined whether it was a bomb.
Police didn’t immediately identify the teenager killed Monday. Manley said the woman who was injured in that attack is a 40-year-old woman who remains hospitalized.