The search for the person behind a string of deadly bombings that had left two people dead, another four wounded and deeply unsettled Texas’s capital city appeared to come to an end Wednesday.
Police identified the suspect as Mark Anthony Conditt, 23, who died on the side of a frontage road north of Austin after setting off a bomb in his car early Wednesday while pursued by police, authorities say.
The news brought a measure of relief to the city. But much uncertainty remains about who Conditt was and why the bombings were carried out. Here is what we know.
Who is the suspect?
Conditt grew up in Pflugerville, a suburb north of Austin, and attended Austin Community College between 2010 and 2012. He did not graduate, a representative from the school said. It was unclear whether he had any disciplinary trouble as a student.
It does not appear that he had a criminal record, officials said. He had never been arrested in Travis County, which encompasses most of Austin, including Pflugerville. At the time of his death, he lived about a mile away from his parents home. He was not a military veteran, despite some speculation given the technical sophistication needed to construct package bombs.
A blog Conditt appears to have written as part of a class requirement for a government class at the school in 2012 includes a short biography that says that he likes “cycling, parkour, tennis, reading, and listening to music,” and describes himself as politically conservative.
In one post, he argues that same-sex marriage should be illegal — “Homosexuality is not natural. Just look at the male and female bodies. They are obviously designed to couple,” it reads, comparing homosexuality with pedophilia and bestiality. In another, he defends the death penalty.
He also argued against releasing Guantanamo detainee Majid Khan. It was not immediately clear what Conditt’s political views were in more recent years.
With what was he charged?
Law enforcement officials had obtained an arrest warrant for Conditt on Tuesday. According to a federal complaint, he was charged with one count of unlawful possession and transfer of a destructive device. Although the complaint affidavit against Conditt is sealed, it dealt with charges from March 2 through March 20, encompassing the time from when the first bomb exploded in Austin.
What do police know about the motivation behind the bombings?
Officials said late Wednesday that Conditt’s motive seemed to be a sense of frustration with his life.
Conditt made a 25-minute video recording on his cellphone describing how he built seven explosive devices, Austin Police Chief Brian Manley said. He said the video, which was made between 9 and 11 p.m. Tuesday, seemed to be created because Conditt “felt like we were getting very close to him.”
“He does not at all mention anything about terrorism, nor does he mention anything about hate, but instead it is the outcry of a very challenged young man talking about challenges in his personal life that led him to this point,” he said, adding that “there was no reason given for why he selected” the victims who were killed or hurt.
Two of the first three victims were members of prominent black families that were connected to each other as well as the same church in Austin, leading some to speculate that the crimes were targeted toward them. Another victim was a 75-year-old Hispanic woman.
On Sunday, a third bomb, apparently triggered by a trip wire, wounded two white men in their early 20s. About a day later, a bomb exploded at a FedEx facility south of Austin, wounding one person. Officials found a sixth bomb unexploded at a FedEx facility in Austin near the airport.
Conditt’s family released a short statement Wednesday through family friend Eddie Harp.
“The family is grieved not only for their loss for but also for the loss of those affected by these heinous actions,” the statement said. “The family’s present focus is on dealing with their shock and loss and cooperating with the police investigation.”
Did Conditt act alone?
At a news conference Wednesday, Fred Milanowski, the special agent in charge of the Houston field office of the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives, told reporters that investigators found bomb components at the home where Conditt lived, including a “considerable amount” of explosive material in one room. The similarity between those components and the devices that exploded across the city allowed investigators to conclude that the same person was involved with the components and the bombs.
“When you look at the interim components, they’re very similar to us, and from laboratory analysis, we know it’s the same person who manufactured these,” Milanowski said.
Police questioned two people Wednesday who lived with the suspect, although they did not identify either person. Milanowksi said that investigators had not yet determined whether other people living in the home knew about the bomb materials.
Authorities have said that the suspect may have left unexploded bombs around the city and urged residents to be cautious.
How were police able to connect him to the bombing?
Officials said they connected Conditt to the location of the explosions initially through his cellphone use. The red SUV that he drove into a ditch before the final bomb went off was also seen at various locations connected to the crimes, Texas Gov. Greg Abbott told reporters.
When the suspected bomber used FedEx, law enforcement caught an even bigger break: He had been captured on a store’s video surveillance system.
The surveillance footage, from a south Austin store, showed Conditt wearing a wig and gloves, and officers soon obtained a receipt for the disguise, Abbott said. He also said that Conditt purchased some materials at a local Home Depot.
After officers found Conditt at a hotel in Round Rock, north of Austin, he left in his SUV. A SWAT team pursued him until he pulled off on the side of the road. Manley, the police chief, told reporters that when officers approached Conditt’s vehicle, he detonated a bomb, knocking one officer back and wounding him. The blast killed Conditt.
Meagan Flynn, Eva Ruth Moravec, Kristine Phillips and Julie Tate contributed to this report.