Two of the families who had package bombs left on their doorsteps in Austin were both involved in local activism in the black community and were known to each other.
As police hunt for clues behind the blasts that left two dead and two wounded in Texas over the period of ten days, investigators have a link between two of the three families who were targeted.
Draylen Mason, 17, was killed and his mother wounded when they opened the anonymous package sent to them, in their kitchen on Monday.
Draylen Mason, 17, (left) and Anthony Stephan House, 39, (right) were killed when package bombs were left at their respective homes
Anthony House, 39, died when he opened a package sent to this home on March 2. His stepfather Freddie Dixon, is friends with Mason’s grandfather Norman Mason, a prominent dentist in east Austin, according to Nelson Linder, president of the Austin chapter of the NAACP, CBS reports.
‘I don’t believe in coincidences,’ Linder said.
It is not yet clear if there was any tie to the third family who received a bomb, which left a 75-year-old Hispanic woman in critical condition. She was named by family as Esperanza Herrera.
The first victim, Draylen Mason, an honor roll student and musician, was the grandson of Norman Mason, a dentist who has mentored black students at the University of Texas at Austin and his grandmother LaVonne Mason is co-founder of the Austin Area Urban League.
Monday’s first explosion: Police were called to a home in Austin at 6.45am on Monday following reports of the explosion that left the 17-year-old boy dead and a woman in her 40s seriously injured
The three explosions that have occurred in the last two weeks, two of which have been deadly, have all been within several miles of each other
Dixon was a pastor at Wesley United Methodist Church, one of the city’s oldest historically black churches, and was a leader of Austin’s African American Cultural Heritage District, the six square miles of east Austin originally created as the ‘Negro District’ in 1928.
Linder said people of color in Austin had been left feeling nervous after the bombings.
‘Given the fact these people are people of color, that definitely gets people’s attention,’ he said. ‘They feel vulnerable, and they should based on the nature of the incidents.’
Austin Police Chief Brian Manley said that they are investigating and would be looking into the fact that two of the victims were known to each other.
He said that they haven’t ruled out whether the attacks were hate crimes or terror related.
Manley said: ‘We’re not saying that we believe terrorism or hate is in play, but we absolutely have to consider that because we don’t want to limit what we are investigating, what we are considering and how we are approaching this case.’
The 17-year-old, who was an honor roll student and promising musician, was killed when the package left outside his home exploded when it was opened in his kitchen
Monday’s second explosion: Police and FBI officials blocked off Galindo Street (above) after reports an elderly woman was severely injured in a blast
March 2 explosion: Police are pictured above responding to the explosion on March 2 that killed Anthony Stephan House
The Texas governor’s office revealed on Monday it was offering a reward of up to $50,000 for information leading to the arrest of those involved in the deadly package blasts.
Police, with the help of the FBI and the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives, are desperately searching for the attacker.
Austin police Chief Brian Manley had initially suggested that the blasts could constitute a hate crime, but later amended that to say authorities had not settled on a motive since the intended targets weren’t clear because multiple people live in the homes where explosives were placed.
‘We are not ruling anything out at this point,’ Manley said on Monday.
MULTIPLE BLASTS ROCK AUSTIN:
Friday, March 2: The first explosion occurs 10 days ago on the 1100 block of Haverford Drive. Anthony Stephan House, 39, is killed when a package blows up at his home at 6.55am.
6.44am on Monday, March 12: The explosion on Monday morning occurs in the kitchen of a home on the 4800 block of Oldfort Hill Drive.
Draylen Mason, 17, is killed and a woman is seriously injured. It occurs 12 miles from the March 2 explosion.
11.50am on Monday, March 12: The second explosion occurs about six miles from Monday’s first incident at the 6700 block of Galindo Street.
A 75-year-old woman is taken to hospital with serious potentially life threatening injuries.
He added that there was no specific victimology or ideology so determining a motive was proving difficult.
Police gave little details on the exact descriptions of the devices but said they were ‘box-type deliveries’ of an average size.
‘A device like this can be hidden in many different ways,’ Manley said.
In at least the first two blasts, the packages were left overnight on the victims’ doorsteps and were not mailed or sent by a delivery service.
Manley said neither the US Postal Service nor private carriers such as UPS or FedEx have any record of delivering the package to the home where Monday’s explosion occurred.
The explosions happened with hundreds of thousands of visitors in the city for the South by Southwest music, film and technology festival.
The bombs did not go off near the site and authorities say the event that brings thousands of people to the city every year is not connected.