Last night, a bomb meant for Austin, Texas exploded at a FedEx facility in Schertz, Texas. This is the fifth in a series of deadly bombs that have targeted Austin, the capital of the state.
The first three bombs were in packages delivered to people’s homes, resulting in two deaths and injuries to two more people. The fourth bomb was detonated by a tripwire and seriously injured two men.
The first package exploded March 2, killing Anthony Stephan House, 39, when he picked up a package on the front porch of his northeast Austin home. The second bomb went off March 12 inside a home in east Austin. Draylen Mason, 17, was killed and his mother was hospitalized. The third blast came a short time later in a neighborhood south of downtown. A 75-year-old woman picked up a package on her front porch when it exploded, seriously injuring her. The last Austin blast occurred late Sunday, when a blast, possibly set off by a tripwire, injured two men in southwest Austin.
The first three attacks involved suspicious packages left on doorsteps in Austin. The package Sunday apparently was left on the side of a road in the city. The latest explosion took place at a FedEx facility about 65 miles from Austin. (source)
Each bomb has been somewhat different, and increasingly sophisticated. The Washington Post reports:
Police have declined to describe the bombs in detail, saying only that they appear to be the sophisticated work of a person or people who know what they are doing — and noting that the bombmaker has been able to assemble and deliver the devices without setting them off. After telling residents to remain wary of unexpected or suspicious packages, authorities are urging broader caution.
“We’re even more concerned now that if people see something suspicious, they just stay away from it altogether and contact law enforcement,” said Fred Milanowski, special agent in charge of the Houston division of the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives. “Because if they move that package or if they step on that tripwire, it’s likely to detonate.”
Milanowski said bombs using tripwires are activated when any pressure is applied to the wires, and he said that can include people “tripping over it or picking up the package.” (source)
After the tripwire bomb, residents were cautioned to stay indoors.
Dan Defenbaugh, a former FBI official who spent decades investigating bomb cases, said the use of a tripwire Sunday “dramatically changes the tactics involved.”
The shift in method — from a bomb targeting an individual or their family to a device that could kill a random passerby — evokes past attacks that created climates of fear, such as the Washington-area sniper shootings that gripped the D.C. region for weeks in 2002 as victims were shot at random. And, as during the Unabomber’s campaign of sending explosives through the mail, the Austin attacks thus far defy explanation and have come without any threat or warning.
“Once a bomb builder makes a device, they usually make it the same way each and every time,” said Defenbaugh, who managed the Oklahoma City bombing investigation. “That’s not happening here. I’m also troubled by the fact that there hasn’t been an extortion demand or communication.” (source)
The attacks have taken place in various neighborhoods around the city, as shown by this map from WaPo.
Officials haven’t identified a pattern to the bombings, at least not publicly.
At this point, there is no clear motive for the bombings. Initially, it was thought that the motivation could be racial, as the first victims were black and Hispanic. But the tripwire victims were both white males, which has caused investigators to reconsider their original supposition.
The bomb at the FedEx facility has triggered DHS protocols
Last night, a fifth bomb exploded just northeast of San Antonio, Texas. The package was reportedly bound for Austin. One person was injured and treated at the scene.
According to AlertsUSA, this most recent event has triggered the implementation of Department of Homeland Security emergency protocols across the postal and shipping sectors.
The Postal and Shipping Sector is one of 18 critical infrastructure sectors established under the authority of Homeland Security Presidential Directive 7 (HSPD-7).Several government departments and agencies have formed the Postal and Shipping Government Coordinating Council (GCC) which works closely with sector stakeholders to enable assessment of national, cross-sector critical infrastructure protection and resilience programs.
Sector-specific assets include: over 400 high-volume automated processing facilities; over 40,000 local delivery units; many and varied collection, acceptance, and retail operations; over 50,000 transport vehicles including vans, trucks, tractor trailers, and aircraft; and information and communications networks.
This morning’s explosion at a Schertz, TX FedEx facility has triggered a variety of emergency protocols (some seen, most not) for acceptance, processing & delivery locally, as well as on a regional and national level.
The intensity of the emergency protocols will vary from location to location, but the entire sector is now on high alert.
Given the unknowns and the ongoing nature of the threat, these emergency protocols are likely to be observed by other carriers beyond FedEx. (source)
How do you keep yourself safe from random attacks like this?
As is true with most acts of terror, situational awareness is the key to keeping yourself and your family safe. You should stop and think before touching or opening any package:
- Is this package expected?
- Do you recognize who the package is from?
- Is there anything at all suspicious about the package?
If you have any doubt that the package is safe, you should call 911 and let them know of your concerns. Be on your toes and caution children not to touch any packages without your permission. Obviously, those in the Austin area should be particularly careful.