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Latest Austin, Texas, explosion showed 'different level of skill'

The Dallas Morning News
March 19. 2018 9:14PM




AUSTIN, Texas — Two people were wounded in an explosion Sunday night in an Austin, Texas, neighborhood that was set off by a tripwire, and police are working to determine whether the blast is connected to the recent string of deadly package bombings in the city.

The victims — two white men in their 20s — were wounded about 8:30 p.m. in the 4800 block of Dawn Song Drive, southwest of downtown Austin. The injuries were not thought to be life-threatening, Austin-Travis County EMS said.

Interim police Chief Brian Manley said during an overnight news conference that it was “very possible” that the explosion had been set off by someone “handling, kicking or coming in contact with a trip wire.”

“That changes things,” he said. “Our safety message to this point has been involving the handling of packages, and telling this community, ‘Do not handle packages, do not not pick up packages, do not disturb packages.'

“We now need to have an extra level of vigilance and pay attention to any suspicious device, whether it be a package, a bag, a backpack — anything that looks out of place — and please do not approach it."

Manley said that the device involved in Sunday night's blast was left alongside the road. The victims were on bicycles, or pushing them, when the device exploded, he said.

On “Good Morning America” later Monday morning, Manley confirmed the explosive was set off by a trip wire and said the device showed “a different level of skill.”

Residents within a half-mile radius of Dawn Song Drive and Republic of Texas Boulevard in the Travis Country neighborhood were asked to remain in their homes and wait for instructions.

Manley said it would likely be daylight before officials could declare the area safe.

Late Sunday and into Monday morning, law-enforcement officials worked to sweep the community. They cleared a suspicious backpack that had been found in the area of the explosion.

Before dawn, police sent out a cellphone alert asking residents to remain indoors. Austin ISD said it would not be sending school buses into the neighborhood and that absences and tardies would be excused.

Jerry Schmidt, president of the Woods at Travis Country homeowner's association, said he did not hear Sunday's explosion, but that a relative with diminished hearing did.

"It concerns me because I want to keep my neighborhood safe. I can't believe this is going on here," Schmidt said.

Shonda Mace, who lives on nearby Canyonwood Drive, heard the sirens but not the explosion.

"Travis Country is a safe neighborhood. Things like this don't happen here and it's really terrifying," she said. "It just doesn't happen here. It's in a state of shock."

In the three bombings earlier this month, which killed two people and injured two others, a box or package was left on or near the front porch of the victims' homes, according to law enforcement.

On March 2, Anthony Stephan House, 39, was killed at his home in the 1100 block of Haverford Drive.

Ten days later, 17-year-old Draylen Mason was killed and his 41-year-old mother was injured when she opened a package left on the front porch of her home in the 4800 block of Oldfort Hill Drive.

Later that morning, a 75-year-old woman was injured when she handled a package near her home in the 6700 block of Galindo Street.

The names of the two injured women have not been released. Authorities think the three incidents are related.

A $115,000 reward is being offered for information leading to the arrest and conviction of the person or people responsible.

On Saturday, a 26-year-old man was arrested after a bomb threat was emailed to South by Southwest festival organizers. That threat led to the cancellation of a concert by the Roots on Saturday night.

Police searched the area and said they found no danger to the public. Authorities also said the incident did not appear to be connected to the string of explosions around the capital.


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