LATEST: 265 reports of suspicious packages; reward raised to $65,000


4:51 p.m. update: Authorities on Tuesday announced a $50,000 reward for any information leading to the arrest of the bomber behind three explosions in Austin since March 2.

Interim Austin Police Chief Brian Manley said the additional cash, added to the $15,000 offered on Monday by Gov. Greg Abbott, brings the total reward up to $65,000.

Manley said investigators continued their work on Tuesday to gather evidence from the scene of two explosions that happened Monday.

Manley said officers received 265 calls for suspicious packages since 8 a.m., and identified 17-year-old Draylen Mason as the teen who was killed in the first blast. 

“These incidents have had a dramatic impact on us as a community, and it’s us working together as a community that’s going to help us clear these cases,” Manley said.

The bombings began on March 2 when 39-year-old Anthony Stephan House found a package on his porch in the 1100 block of Haverford Drive around 7 a.m.

The package exploded, and fatally wounded House.

Shortly after the blast, police said the explosion was being investigated as a homicide, but walked that statement back the following day, saying they were unable to rule out other possibilities.

After Monday’s explosions, police again classified House’s death as a homicide.

“When we were at that incident, on that day we indicated that at that time, we did not believe there was any further concern or threat to this community, and that we believed that it was an isolated incident,” Manley said.

On the heels of the first explosion, investigators believed the blast might have been a retaliatory action in response to a police raid earlier in the week at a house on the same street.

Manley said police removed a significant amount of cash from a drug stash house that was similar in color, and had similar vehicles outside. Authorities believed the bomber simply got the wrong house, he said. 

“As we continued to investigate it, we changed the classification to a suspicious death, again because we didn’t want to rule out any possible scenario by which this may have taken place,” Manley said. “Similar to how we are not ruling out terrorism, we are not ruling out hate, we didn’t want to rule out any other possible motive here or any other possible way that this had happened.” 

Manley said investigators are not saying they believe terrorism or hate are in play as motives, but confirmed that they are being considered.

The victim in the second blast, a 75-year-old woman, remains in critical condition, he said.

Earlier: As of 5 a.m. Tuesday, Austin police have received 150 calls about suspicious packages after a string of deadly package explosions this month that have left two dead and two injured across the city, interim Police Chief Brian Manley said.

Nothing suspicious was found after any of the calls, police said.

The chief is continuing to urge people to remain vigilant and not to open any unexpected or suspicious packages.

“If you see something suspicious, call 911,” he said via Twitter.

On Monday, Austin police responded to two package explosions within hours of each other.

The first explosion was reported at 6:45 a.m. Monday in the 4800 block of Oldfort Hill Drive, where police say a 17-year-old was killed after picking up a package near the front door. A woman in her 40s was seriously injured in the explosion, police said.

A second blast was reported shortly before noon in the 6700 block of Galindo Street, where police say a 75-year-old woman was seriously injured removing a package from her porch. 

Earlier this month, Anthony Stephan House was killed March 2 when a package exploded on his porch in the 1100 block of Haverford Drive in Northeast Austin.

Police have said they believe all the explosions are related and federal agencies including the FBI and Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives have joined the investigation.

“My prayers are with the families of those that lost their life or (were) injured during the three explosions,” Manley said Tuesday. “The investigation into the incidents is ongoing.”

Residents who live around Oldfort Hill Drive in East Austin were jumpy Tuesday morning and some appeared afraid to answer their doors.

Tracy Nguyen, 32, who lives down the street from where the first package exploded Monday, said she was cautious after hearing the news and would not be ordering anything to her home anytime soon. 

“I’m even afraid to check my mailbox,” she said. “It seems like such a random act.”

Nguyen, who is Vietnamese, said she was worried hearing the attacks could be racially motivated. Police said the two people killed were African-American and the woman injured in the third explosion was Hispanic.

“It could have been me,” Nguyen said. “It could have been anyone.”


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