The suspect in a string of deadly bombing attacks that terrorized Austin, Texas over the last three weeks killed himself early Wednesday, detonating another bomb in his car as police closed in to arrest him.
Austin Police Chief Brian Manley said that authorities zeroed in on the suspect, identified as Mark Anthony Conditt, a 24-year-old unemployed white man, in the last day and a half and spotted his vehicle at a hotel in the Austin suburb of Round Rock. He said that while police were waiting for tactical teams to arrive, the suspect drove off but ran into a ditch on the side of a highway.
When members of a SWAT team approached, Manley said, the suspect detonated an explosive inside his vehicle. The blast knocked back one officer, who sustained a minor injury, while another fired his weapon at the suspect.
Manley said authorities believe that Conditt was responsible for six bombs, including five that detonated, killing two people and seriously wounding at least five others.
But authorities warned residents in Austin and its environs of the possibility that more bombs had yet to be found.
Austin Mayor Steve Adler said, "We still need people to be vigilant. We don't know where the suspect has been the last 24 hours."
Authorities said they did not know the suspect's motive.
Fred Milanowski, an agent with the U.S. Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives, said it was "hard to say" if the suspect had acted alone.
"What we do know is we believe the same person built each one of these devices," Milanowski said. "We are not 100 percent convinced there's not other devices out there."
Milanowski added, "We know when he bought some of the components. It's hard to say whether he was building along the way."
Texas Governor Greg Abbott said, "We've known for a couple of days who the suspect likely was. Law enforcement is at his house in Pflugerville where we are learning whether or not that was the location he was making his bombs." He said Conditt is believed to have lived with two roommates, who are not currently considered suspects. Abbott said Conditt was not a military veteran.
Police said they pinpointed Conditt as the suspect through monitoring of store surveillance video, cellphone signals and accounts of witnesses who saw a strange-looking man wearing what appeared to be a blonde wig and gloves.
Michael McCaul, a U.S. congressman in the Austin area, said Conditt's "fatal mistake" was visiting a FedEx store to mail a package because that allowed authorities to obtain the surveillance video that showed both him and his vehicle, as well as a license plate number, enabling police to identify him.
Shortly after Conditt blew himself up, President Donald Trump praised authorities on Twitter.
"AUSTIN BOMBING SUSPECT IS DEAD. Great job by law enforcement and all concerned!" he said.
AUSTIN BOMBING SUSPECT IS DEAD. Great job by law enforcement and all concerned!— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) March 21, 2018
The latest attack occurred Tuesday when a package bomb blew up at a Federal Express shipping facility near San Antonio, about 100 kilometers southwest of Austin. One worker sustained minor injuries.
Police also responded Tuesday to a FedEx facility outside the Austin airport to investigate a suspicious package and determined it both contained an explosive and was linked to the other explosive packages.
Investigators said another package bomb that exploded late Sunday in Austin, injuring two people, was set off by a tripwire and was more sophisticated than the three blasts that took place earlier in March.
Police have been investigating the bombings as possible hate crimes. The first three explosions killed two African-American men and left a 75-year-old Hispanic woman fighting for her life, although two white men were the victims in one of the last bombings.
Authorities, before solving the case, had offered a $100,000 reward for information leading to arrests and convictions of those responsible for the explosions.