Wednesday 19 December 2018

Bomb spree comes to end with suspect suicide

'Polite, quiet' man could have left string of other unexploded devices

Police investigate the scene where the Texas bombing suspect blew himself up on the side of a highway north of Austin in Round Rock, Texas. Photo: Reuters
Police investigate the scene where the Texas bombing suspect blew himself up on the side of a highway north of Austin in Round Rock, Texas. Photo: Reuters

Rose Thayer

The family of the man thought to have terrorised Austin during a deadly month-long bombing spree have spoken of their devastation as police tried to understand how and why he went on his rampage.

Mark Conditt (24) yesterday killed himself in his car as a Swat team closed in on him in the town of Round Rock, 30km from Austin, Texas.

Police said they had learnt of his identity in the previous 24 hours, when he was caught on CCTV dropping off a package at a FedEx in Austin. They obtained his Google search records and found suspicious activity.

Conditt is suspected of carrying out at least five bomb attacks in the Austin area, killing two people and wounding several. Police last night said the pipe bombs were made with hardware shop components. It was unclear whether he acted alone.

Mystery: Austin bombing suspect Mark Conditt
Mystery: Austin bombing suspect Mark Conditt

Officials have not given a motive and Brian Manley, chief of Austin police, said they remained concerned there could still be unexploded devices.

"We don't know where this suspect has spent his last 24 hours, and therefore we need to remain vigilant to be sure no other packages have been left throughout the community," he said.

Yesterday, his family issued a statement saying they were "devastated and broken" to be caught up in the attacks: "We had no idea of the darkness that Mark must have been in.

"Our family is a normal family in every way. We love, we pray, and we try to inspire and serve others. Right now, our prayers are for those families that have lost loved ones, for those impacted in any way, and for the soul of our Mark."

Forensic officers at the scene. Photo: Getty
Forensic officers at the scene. Photo: Getty

Conditt lived in the Austin suburb of Pflugerville, in a house he shared with two room-mates - both of whom were detained and questioned by investigators yesterday.

Mark Roessler, an IT manager, lived across the street and said that Conditt and his father Pat bought the house two years ago as a "fixer-upper project".

He said Conditt was "very polite" and that he and his father worked together for a year before Conditt moved in. "It was obvious the dad had a loving bond for his son," said Mr Roessler.

"He confided in me he was trying to build their relationship. Mark was quiet. He invited me into the house two or three times and saw the remodel work.

A woman in tears at the scene of one of the explosions linked to Conditt. Photo: AP
A woman in tears at the scene of one of the explosions linked to Conditt. Photo: AP

"Mark moved in some time last year and I haven't seen much of him since. I would see people his age, males, come and go from the house."

From an early age, the siblings were all home-schooled by Danene Conditt, their mother.

Jeremiah Jensen (24), who was home-schooled in the same community, said Conditt was "rough around the edges".

He added: "I have no idea what caused him to make those bombs. I wish he would have reached out to me and asked for help or something.

"What I remember about him, he would push back on you if you said something without thinking about it. He loved to think and argue and turn things over and figure out what was really going on."

Mr Jensen said Conditt regularly attended the Austin Stone Community Church.

"I know faith was a serious thing for him," he said. "But I don't know if he held onto his faith or not. The kind of anger that he expressed and the kind of hate that he succumbed to - that's not what he believed in at high school."

Mr Jensen said he and many of his fellow home-schooled students felt loneliness.

"It's just very difficult for a lot of kids to find a way to fit in once they are out in the real world," he said.

"I have a feeling that is what happened with Mark. I don't remember him ever being sure of what he wanted to do."

As part of his studies, Conditt appears to have written a blog, with six postings discussing social and political issues between January and May 2012.

Introducing himself, he wrote: "I enjoy cycling, parkour, tennis, reading and listening to music.

"I am not that politically inclined. I view myself as a conservative, but I don't think I have enough information to defend my stance as well as it should be defended."

His postings showed him to be against gay marriage and abortion and in favour of the death penalty.

After completing his studies, Conditt worked for several years at a local semi-conductor manufacturer, Crux Manufacturing, before being fired last August for poor performance.

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