The fourth explosion in Austin this month sent two men to the hospital with serious injuries Sunday night. The explosion follows three similar incidents, one on March 2 that killed 39-year-old Anthony House, and two on March 12 that killed 17-year-old Draylen Mason and injured two others. The first three explosions were all package bombs.
Austin police reported that the city’s fourth bomb attack shows similarities to the previous blasts but indicates a “significant change” in the “serial bomber’s” tactics and level of sophistication. Sunday night’s device appears to have been detonated by a tripwire when two young men walked nearby.
Austin Interim Police Chief Brian Manley told reporters Monday morning that investigators believe the use of a tripwire in the fourth bomb shows a higher level of sophistication than already determined. He said it also indicates a shift in the “serial bomber’s” strategy of targeting specific people to a more random style. Perhaps to throw off the scent that any links between the first three bombings and their methodology or targets might provide.
“Based on the preliminary investigation we have done at this time, we have seen similarities in the device that exploded here last night and the other three devices,” Manley explained. “The big difference in this device is we believe that a tripwire was used in this device.”
Residents of the Travis Country subdivision who might have video surveillance cameras installed on their homes were asked to contact police so that the footage can be evaluated for possible clues.
ATF Special Agent in Charge Frederick J. Milanowski further explained the increased sophistication of the fourth bomb “This device is a little more sophisticated than what we have seen to date. A tripwire is a victim-actuated switch. It literally utilizes some type of wire and when you step your foot on that wire, it activates a deadly device.”
Milanowski said it can be activated by either “tripping over it, or picking up the package–any tension that is put on that wire. If you move that package or step on the wire, it is likely to detonate.”
Officials emphasized that people seeing a suspicious package must not touch or approach the package but instead immediately call 911 and ask for help. Bomb dogs and technicians will be dispatched to the area.
FBI Special Agent in Charge Christopher Combs expressed great concern about the change in strategy. “We are very concerned that with tripwires, a child walking down the sidewalk could hit something.” The use of a tripwire shows the bomber is not targeting an individual but is seeking random victims.
Thus far, officials have stopped just shy of calling the attacks domestic terrorism.
Sunday night’s bomb was located near a fence and detonated when the two victims walked by. The latest victims as described as white males, aged 22 and 23—differing from the previous victims who were African American and Hispanic.
The latest victims sustained severe injuries but are expected to fully recover.
“As we said at the beginning, we are not willing to classify this as terrorism, or as hate,” Austin Police Chief Brian Manley explained. “We just don’t know enough. And what we have seen now is a significant change from what appeared to be three very targeted attacks to what was last night, an attack that would have hit a random victim that would have happened to walk by.”
The reward for information leading to arrests grew to $115,000 on Sunday, just hours before the fourth bombing attack occurred.
Featured Image Courtesy of Associated Press