By DAVE MONTGOMERY and JONAH ENGEL BROMWICH
ROUND ROCK, Texas – A suspect in the series of bombings that have terrorized the city of Austin, Texas, died early Wednesday, blowing himself up in his vehicle as officers closed in on him, authorities said.
A law enforcement official identified the suspect as Mark Anthony Conditt, a 23-year-old white man.
Officials did not rule out the possibility that the man had accomplices.
“We do not understand what motivated him to do what he did,” said Austin Police Chief Brian Manley.
The first explosions hit African-American residents whose families are well known in the city’s black community, though two white men were injured by an explosive triggered by a tripwire Sunday. Manley did not address any potential motive, including race.
Law enforcement officials cautioned that the bomber could have planted other explosives that have not yet detonated. “We still need to remain vigilant,” Manley said. “We do not know where he has been in the past 24 hours.”
He added, “This investigation is still underway, so we cannot say that this was an individual acting on their own.”
In a Twitter post, President Donald Trump praised law enforcement officials for their work in identifying and locating the suspect.
The suspect lived in Pflugerville, a suburb of 59,000 about 20 miles northeast of downtown Austin, a law enforcement official said.
“There were several leads that led us to this person,” including surveillance video, Manley said.
Police and federal agents Wednesday morning entered the home of Conditt’s parents in Pflugerville, a white clapboard, two-story home with an American flag hanging on the front porch. His parents had not answered several knocks on the door from reporters, but later in the morning, the agents pulled up in two vehicles and they were allowed in.
Gov. Greg Abbott, a Republican, told a local television affiliate that Conditt lived with two roommates, who were cooperating with the investigation.
“Through those roommates, as well as being able to access social media accounts, as well as getting into the house and gathering information, we’re going to learn so much more over the next few hours,” Abbott said. “Before the sun sets today we will have so many other pieces of the puzzle.”
The suspect is believed to be responsible for at least six bombs that killed at least two people and wounded five. Four bombs detonated in various locations in Austin where they had been left.
Another detonated at a FedEx distribution center in Schertz, Texas, near San Antonio, and a sixth was found, unexploded, in a FedEx facility near Austin’s airport.
The attacks started the morning of March 2, when a package bomb detonated on the porch of an Austin home, killing Anthony Stephan House, 39. That was followed 10 days later by two bombs outside homes, one of which killed a 17-year-old boy.
The first three bombs were apparently detonated when they were picked up or jostled. Later, a package bomb exploded outside another Austin home, set off by a tripwire. The bombs at the FedEx centers were found on Tuesday.
“Within the past 24 to 36 hours, we started getting information on one person of interest,” Manley said. “This person of interest ultimately moved to being a suspect.”
The suspect’s vehicle was traced to a hotel in Round Rock, just north of Austin, Manley said, where a SWAT team surrounded the hotel and called other specialized units. But before those teams could arrive, the suspect drove away.
Officers followed the suspect, who stopped in a ditch off Interstate 35, and SWAT officers approached the vehicle on foot.
“The suspect detonated a bomb inside of the vehicle, knocking one officer back” and slightly injuring him, the police chief said. Another officer fired his gun at the vehicle.