Police and FBI agents descended on a FedEx outlet in the tiny Austin suburb of Sunset Valley on Tuesday in the belief that it could be where the latest bombs were sent from.
Officers were seen swabbing down the door handles of the courier service store on Brodie Lane. They then went inside and covered the windows with paper.
FedEx said it had confirmed a man had sent two packages – the one that exploded near San Antonio on Tuesday, and the one that was safely handed over to authorities.
‘We are thankful there were no serious injuries from this criminal activity,’ the company said in a statement.
The Sunset Valley store was closed and cops put up yellow tape and cleared parking lots, though they do not believe there are any dangerous packages still inside.
Investigation: Officers were seen swabbing down the door and handles of a FedEx outlet in Sunset Valley, Texas on Tuesday
FBI believe this FedEx location is where the latest bombs were sent from. One exploded after midnight on Tuesday while the other was safely handed over to authorities
The Sunset Valley store was closed and cops put up yellow tape and cleared parking lots, though they do not believe there are any dangerous packages still inside
After several hours dusting down Tighe Sunset Valley FedEx Office, agents from the FBI’s Computer Analysis Response Team left around 3.30 pm carrying four brown evidence bags, one of which held the counter mat from the store and loaded them into the trunk of a waiting rented white Toyota Corolla.
On early Tuesday morning, a package ‘containing nails and pieces of metal’ destined for Austin exploded and injured one person inside a FedEx facility in nearby San Antonio in the fifth bombing to rock the state this month.
The wounded employee was taken to hospital after suffering a mild injury in the explosion at the distribution center in Schertz, about 65 miles south of Austin, shortly after midnight.
The package detonated as it was moving from one conveyor belt to another and the female staff member, who was not hit by the contents, was treated after she reported feeling ringing in her ears.
Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton told the KXAN TV station that the bomb had been mailed from Austin and was addressed to a home in Austin.
Federal agents say the package is likely linked to four other attacks this month in Austin, some 80 miles north-east of San Antonio, that have left two dead and four injured.
Authorities say a ‘serial bomber’ is at large and have warned that the devices appear to be getting more sophisticated.
Just hours after the package explosion in San Antonio, emergency crews were called to a FedEx facility in Austin following reports of a suspicious package. There were no immediate details available about that incident.
Schertz police Chief Michael Hansen said the intended target of the parcel bomb wasn’t the facility or anyone who lives in Schertz. He wouldn’t say where the package was sent to or from or give any other details.
After several hours dusting down Tighe Sunset Valley FedEx Office, agents from the FBI’s Computer Analysis Response Team left around 3.30 pm carrying four brown evidence bags. Pictured above is the FedEx store on Brodie Lane
The package in San Antonio contained shrapnel made up of ‘nails and pieces of metal’, CBS Austin reports. About 75 people were working at the facility at the time of the explosion.
The latest blast follows a Sunday night explosion that was triggered along a street in Austin by a nearly invisible tripwire, suggesting a ‘higher level of sophistication’ than agents saw in three early package bombs left on doorsteps.
It means the carnage by the serial bomber that has terrorized Austin for weeks is now random, rather than targeted at someone in particular.
Authorities don’t appear closer to making any arrests in the five bombings.
FBI Special Agent Michelle Lee said although it is still early in the investigation, it was likely all five bombings are related.
She didn’t have details about the size, weight, or description of the package that exploded.
It comes as President Donald Trump was criticized for his silence over the Austin bombings, where most of the victims have come from the city’s historically black and Latino neighborhoods.
Unlike other attacks, such as the Pulse nightclub shooting in Florida, which Trump was quick to label an act of terrorism, the president has remained silent about the Austin bombs.
The first two bombs killed black men and investigators believed that the third, which injured a 75-year-old Latina woman, may have been intended for a black family’s home – raising the possibility they were a hate crime.
Sunday’s trip wire bomb, which injured two white men on a sidewalk, went off shortly after police made a rare public call to the suspect to explain his motives.
The package at the FedEx facility (pictured above) detonated just before 12.30am, and the female staff member was treated in hospital for a headache, possibly caused by a concussion
A package ‘containing nails and pieces of metal’ destined for Austin exploded and injured one person inside a FedEx facility in nearby San Antonio just after midnight
An employee wrapped in a blanket talks to a police officer after she was evacuated at a FedEx distribution center where a package exploded on Tuesday morning
The trip wire explosion forced police to warn nearby residents to remain indoors overnight on Sunday as investigators looked for links to the three other package bombings in the city.
Timeline of Texas package bomb attacks
March 2: Anthony Stephan House, 39, is killed when a package blows up at 6.55am at his home on the 1100 block of Haverford Drive.
6.44am on March 12: Draylen Mason, 17, is killed and his mother is seriously injured in a package explosion in their kitchen on the 4800 block of Oldfort Hill Drive.
11.50am on March 12: Esperanza Herrera, 75, is severely injured in a package explosion while visiting her mother’s home on the 6700 block of Galindo Street.
March 18: Two men in their 20s are seriously injured by a trip wire explosion on a sidewalk near the 4800 block of Dawn Song Drive.
March 20: Package ‘containing nails and pieces of metal’ bound for Austin explodes at a FedEx facility in San Antonio just after midnight. Wounded employee is taken to hospital with minor injuries.
Police have still been unable to determine a motive for the string of bombings, which have killed two people in Austin and put the city of nearly two million on edge.
‘We’re clearly dealing with what we expect to be a serial bomber at this point based on the similarities,’ Austin police Chief Brian Manley said on Monday.
Manley said the latest attack, which injured the two white males, appeared ‘random’ and was triggered by a tripwire – raising the possibility the bomber has sophisticated knowledge.
‘A trip wire doesn’t necessarily suggest a military background,’ Manley said.
‘But it suggests that the suspect or suspects we are dealing with have a higher level of sophistication than we believed, as they’re changing their methods to a more difficult device.’
Authorities haven’t identified the two men injured on Sunday, saying only that they are in their 20s.
William Grote told The Associated Press on Monday that his grandson was one of them and that he had what appeared to be nails embedded in his knees. Police described the men’s injuries as significant, and both remained hospitalized in stable conditions.
Grote said his grandson was cognizant but was still in a lot of pain. He said on the night of the bombing, one of the victims was riding a bike in the street and the other was on a sidewalk when they crossed a tripwire that he said knocked ‘them both off their feet.’
‘It was so dark they couldn’t tell and they tripped,’ he said. ‘They didn’t see it. It was a wire and it blew up.’
Previous victims: Anthony Stephan House, 39, (left) died on March 2 and Draylen Mason, 17, (right) died on March 12 when package bombs were left at their respective homes
Authorities don’t appear closer to making any arrests in the five bombings that have occurred in the last 18 days
Residents in the Travis Country area were ordered to stay in their homes until late on Monday. Police kept residential streets on lockdown as they gradually expanded their barricades and closed off all roads into the neighborhood.
Before daybreak on Monday, Austin police pushed another alert to cellphones advising residents to continue staying indoors and to call 911 if they needed to leave their homes in the morning.
Authorities repeated prior warnings about not touching unexpected packages and also issued new ones to be wary of any stray object left in public, especially ones with protruding wires.
‘We want to put out the message that we’ve been putting out and that is, not only do not touch any packages or anything that looks like a package, do not even go near it at this time,’ Manley said.
He urged any residents with surveillance cameras to contact police.
Local and state police and hundreds of federal agents are investigating, and the reward for information leading to an arrest has climbed to $115,000.
Law enforcement consultant Clint McNear told CBS the change in behavior from the serial bomber was concerning.
‘They’ve gone from targeting a specific individual to ‘I just want to kill someone’. That’s concerning,’ McNear said.
Fred Burton, a chief security officer for Stratfor – a private intelligence and security consulting firm based in Austin – said the individual or people behind the bombings are likely to be highly skilled and methodical.
‘This is a race against time to find him before he bombs again,’ Burton said.
Austin Police have responded to more than 1,000 calls of suspicious packages since March 12
ATF agents inspected the scene in Austin on Sunday night with bomb detection dogs after two men were injured in the latest explosion
The first incident occurred on March 2 when a package bomb exploded at a northeast Austin home, killing a 39-year-old Anthony Stephan House.
Two more package bombs then exploded further south on March 12. Draylen Mason, 17, was killed and his mother was wounded after they opened a package in their kitchen.
A 75-year-old Hispanic woman named by family as Esperanza Herrera was severely injured when a package bomb exploded at her home a few hours later.
The trip wire explosion on Sunday came just hours after police made an unusual direct appeal to whomever was responsible for three package bombs that killed two in the past month.
Speaking at a press conference on Sunday afternoon, Chief Manley called on whoever is responsible for the bombs to come forward and share their ‘message.’
‘These events in Austin have garnered worldwide attention, and we assure you that we are listening,’ Manley said.
‘We want to understand what brought you to this point and we want to listen to you.’
Manley appealed to the bomber to communicate with authorities by calling 911 and said that as yet the motive for the attacks has baffled investigators.
HOW TO SPOT A SERIAL BOMBER
Forensic psychiatrist Dr. Mark Welner, who has studied some of the worst serial killers in history, has broken down some of the key characteristics that are common in serial bombers:
- Detail orientated and takes pride in planning and abilities
- ‘Motivated by spectacle through destruction as opposed to merely destructiveness’
- Poor at intimacy
- Socially isolated and quiet
- Obsession with the media and how it reports
- They want to draw attention to themselves, and enjoys creating fear in a community
- He may justify the crime by attaching it to a cause he believes in
Welner, chairman of The Forensic Panel – a forensic science practice which works on complex homicides across the country – told WSOCTV that the sudden change in method of bombing could indicate an experienced bomber who can change methods, or a copycat.
He said that the bomber could be targeting certain ehnicities ‘to instigate violent race conflict’ or to try and manipulate the media ‘by staging violence that inflames racial divisions, or what some call a ‘false flag.’