A teenager was killed and a woman was seriously hurt after a package exploded at an Austin home early Monday in a blast similar to another deadly incident nearly two weeks ago in Texas’ capital city as they probed a probed a third potential blast.
Austin Police said they received a call about the explosion in a neighborhood on the northwest side of the city around 6:45 a.m., after the 17-year-old resident found a package on the front step, brought it inside, and opened it in the kitchen where it exploded.
“It is very similar to the incident that occurred in Austin on March 2,” Austin Police Chief Brian Manley told reporters.
Manley said authorities don’t believe the package came from a delivery through the U.S. Postal Service, and the placement on the home’s front doorstep indicated a similarity to the blast earlier this month.
“We believe these cases are linked at this time,” Manley said.
The Austin-Travis County EMS tweeted that a teenage male was killed and a woman in her 40s was taken to the hospital. Manley said she had non-life threatening injuries.
FBI agents could be seen going around the neighborhood, and the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives said it responded to the scene.
A separate explosion was reported around 11:49 a.m. in the Montopolis neighborhood, located southeast of downtown Austin, that left a woman in her 70’s with “life-threatening” injuries, officials said. The Austin-Travis County EMS said on Twitter a second woman in her 80’s was being treated for an “unrelated medical issue.” Authorities have not yet said if this incident is related to the prior two package bombings.
Damage inside the home from the early morning blast is “significiant,” according to Manley, who added that investigators are going to nearby homes to see if any outdoor surveillance footage exists.
Neighbor Cynthia Burdett, who has lived in the neighborhood since 1999 and close to the home where the blast took place, told FOX 7 she was in “total shock” and the whole incident was “very scary.”
“I checked my house first of all to make sure nothing was on fire, I did look outside at that point and next thing I knew police were knocking at the door saying that there was a suspicious package, one had exploded and that I needed to leave the house,” she told reporters.
She said her neighbors are very good neighbors, “church-going’ people who are “a very good family.”
Manley said the blast bore a resemblance to the March 2 explosion that killed one man.
In that incident, 39-year-old Anthony Stephan House was killed after a “device” exploded on the front porch of his home in the city’s northeast Harris Ridge neighborhood about 12 miles north of Monday’s blast. Both explosions occurred in the early-morning hours.
House’s death was initially called a homicide, but police last week said it was considered a suspicious death because officials hadn’t ruled out the possibility the victim may have constructed and accidentally detonated the device himself. Manley said that case has now been reclassified as a homicide as of Monday.
There is no known motive at this time, but Manley said both blasts took place at homes of African-American residents so authorities “cannot rule out hate crimes.”
Austin police said they’ve determined the device was inside a package, and are working with the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives to reconstruct the item and learn who may have created it.
Manley said they’ve determined what the device was, but they aren’t releasing details “to protect the integrity of the investigation.”
Police are also asking residents in the Austin area if they do find a package on their doorstep that they were not expecting, to not open it and call 911 to have authorities examine it.