President Donald Trump has been criticized for his silence over the Austin bombings, where most of the victims have come from Austin’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 NAACP office in Loudoun, Virginia tweeted: ‘Can you imagine bombings occurring in McClean, Georgetown, Loudoun or Tyson’s killing and injuring white people and any suspicion of it being a person of color or Muslim.
Donald Trump has come under fire for his silence over the Austin bombings targeting people of color
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
‘The National Media, namely Fox News, and the Tweeter in Chief would be apoplectic.’
Film producer and Democrat Party activist Adam Best demanded to know whether the attacks were being ignored ‘because the victims have been people of color so far?’
‘Why hasn’t Donald Trump tweeted or made a statement? This is the 4th bombing in Austin, a metro area of 2M people.
‘Because it’s a progressive city? Because he’s too busy covering his own ass? Austin needs national support!’
Journalist and Rolling Stone magazine contributor Jamil Smith added: ‘Terrorism is what is happening in Austin, Texas right now. Given the race of the victims thus far and his own willful ignorance of extremist violence, I don’t really care if @POTUS says anything. I just hope he doesn’t impede matters, as he is wont to do.’
The latest blast occurred at around 8.30pm on Sunday in a southwestern Austin residential neighborhood known as Travis Country.
The explosion seriously injured two white men, aged 22 and 23, when they are believed to have triggered a tripwire when they were pushing or riding their bikes down a sidewalk.
It forced police to warn nearby residents to remain indoors overnight as investigators looked for links to three other package bombings in the city this month.
Austin Police Chief Brian Manley said in a Monday morning press conference they are dealing with a ‘serial bomber’ and that the latest attack showed a ‘higher level of skill’ than the three previous bombings.
Police also said they 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 between now what is the fourth device,’ the police chief said.
‘(But) 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 happened to walk by.’
‘So we’ve definitely seen a change in the method that this suspect or suspects are using.’
In the earlier bombings, two African-American men were killed by packages left on their doorsteps, raising the possibility of a hate crime.
A 75-year-old Hispanic woman was also injured in a blast.
In the past, Trump has been quick to label certain incidents as ‘terror attacks’ while others have remained tragedies.
In October last year, when someone ran down people with a van in New York, leaving eight dead and 11 injured, Trump sent his ‘thoughts, condolences and prayers to the victims and families of the New York City terrorist attack’ after the Uzbekistan immigrant suspect was found with an ISIS letter in his vehicle.
FBI investigators inspect the site of the fourth bombing in Austin on Monday morning. Police had warned residents to remain indoors overnight as they looked for possible links to other package bombings elsewhere in the city this month
ATF agents deploy at the scene in Austin with bomb sniffing dogs. Police have established a wide cordon and urged residents to remain indoors until receiving an all-clear from cops
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.’
Timeline of Austin package bomb attacks
Friday, 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 a woman is seriously injured in a package explosion in the kitchen of a home 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 an explosion at a home on the 4800 block of Dawn Song Drive. Police haven’t said whether a package bomb was involved.
Residents in the Travis Country area were ordered to stay in their homes until Monday morning and no school buses were going to drive through the area to pick up children.
Manley said authorities would keep the surrounding area blocked off until further notice because of overnight darkness and the ‘size of the area that we want to go in and check.’
Police kept residential streets on lockdown, gradually expanding their barricades and closing 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.
Manley also said authorities had worked to ‘clear’ a suspicious backpack found in the area that was part of a separate report.
‘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.
Sniffer dogs and authorities canvased the area on Monday morning after a bomb exploded in the Travis Country neighborhood on Sunday night
Austin Police Chief Brian Manley (above) said they are dealing with a ‘serial bomber’ and that the latest attack showed a ‘higher level of skill’ than the three previous bombings
An FBI agent and Austin cops work together at the scene of an explosion on Sunday night
A large task force of FBI evidence team members responds to the scene of the explosion
This map shows the latest explosion along with the three prior package bombings in March
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.’
The two men hurt in the latest blast were hospitalized with non-life threatening injuries. The street is a quiet tree-lined cul-de-sac surrounded by single-family homes, some with backyard pools.
A large police response was seen in the area, including FBI and AFT agents wearing raid jackets as well as bomb-sniffing K9 units.
The explosion was loud enough for neighbors to hear inside their homes.
‘It sounded like when the transformers go out, but it was five times magnified that,’ said neighbor Eliza May, who was watching TV at the time, in a phone interview with the New York Times.
It was the fourth explosion to rock Austin in less than three weeks. The latest blast was far from the first three, which occurred on the eastern and northern sides of the city.
The two men injured in the latest blast where white men, while the two men killed were black.
The first was a package bomb that exploded at a northeast Austin home on March 2, killing a 39-year-old Anthony Stephan House.
Two more package bombs then exploded farther 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 families of the two men who died knew each other and both men were involved in activism in the black community. It led to speculation of a racial motive in the attacks but that has not been confirmed by investigators.
All of the bombs have been distant from the famed SXSW Festival, which ran from March 9 until ending on Sunday, and are not thought to be related.
The festival did receive an emailed bomb threat, causing a concert by The Roots to be canceled. A suspect in that threat, 26-year-old Trevor Weldom Ingram, was arrested on Saturday.
The latest explosion 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,’ said Manley.
‘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.
‘There’s the message behind what’s happening in our community, and we’re not going to understand that until the suspect or suspects reaches out to us to talk to us about what that message was,’ Manley said.
‘We still do not know what ideology may be behind this and what the motive was behind this.’
Manley announced that the reward for information leading to the arrest of the bomber had been raised to $115,000.
Fred Burton, a chief security officer with Stratfor, told KVUE that it was ‘fascinating’ the fourth bombing occurred after the reward was raised to $115,000.
‘We have a very crafty bomber here,’ he said.
‘So clearly the bomber watches the news and I think the timing is very curious in light of that.’
Anyone with information about the bombs in Austin is urged to contact investigators anonymously by calling 512-472-8477.
An online fundraising page set up for the 17-year-old victim killed in the second bombing has raised more than $94,000 in less than a week.
Bomb site: A package bomb exploded at this home in northeast Austin, killing Anthony House
Another bombing: A package explosion in the kitchen of this home on March 12, ten days later, killed Draylen Mason, 17
Same day explosion: A package bomb, also on March 12, seriously wounded Esperanza Herrera, 75