- By Ken Herman American-Statesman Staff
The news, as relayed Wednesday at about 5:40 a.m. by Gov. Greg Abbott, indeed was sizable.
“BIG NEWS,” Abbott tweeted. “The Austin Bomber is dead.”
My only regret about his report was the upper-case B that afforded a title to this twisted soul.
Until then, and to my satisfaction, nobody had given this guy the distinction of a label. I don’t know if Abbott meant anything by upper-casing Bomber. But I prefer the Austin bomber, or perhaps just deranged guy whose motives we hope we can decipher post mortem.
A few hours after Austin Police Department interim Chief Brian Manley announced the bomber’s demise, we learned the suspect was Mark Conditt, 23, of Pflugerville.
He is no more, but, as Manley and others are warning us, we can’t be sure we’ve seen the end of his diabolical deeds. Vigilance remains important.
“More work needs to be done to ensure no more bombs had been sent before he died,” Abbott tweeted, echoing the cautions of Manley and others.
We also must wait for the results of the investigations of how this investigation ended. Manley says one of his officers fired a shot at the suspect as this came to an end. That means an automatic investigation by the internal affairs unit and the Austin police monitor.
We also know one officer was injured as this came to an end.
The police — and in this sad case that means local, state and federal police — did what the police do when a community is put in harm’s way, as this situation did in ways unprecedented in Austin. What the investigators did was put themselves in harm’s way in very real ways, in very close proximity.
Early today, as they closed in on the suspect, officers had to know exactly what kind of potential harm they were walking toward.
As a community, we send our thanks to the hundreds of law enforcement officials who were involved and our best wishes to the one who was injured.
We also continue to mourn the loss of the two people killed in the bombings that began March 2 and our continued best wishes to those still recovering from wounds.
Long shot though it might be, we also hope we can learn something that can help prevent a recurrence of anything like this. I fear all we might learn is that there are some things and actions that defy understanding.
We’ve already learned some things from people who knew Conditt and by some writings he produced while an Austin Community College student. Just as it was important not for us to jump to conclusions while this reign of terror gripped our city, it’s important that we don’t jump to conclusions as a result of what we’ve learned so far about Conditt. He was home schooled. That might or might not tell us anything about home schoolers. Ditto for his aggressively professed beliefs about gay marriage and abortion, both of which he opposed.
Let’s be careful not to over-associate any of those beliefs with the extreme behavior exhibited by this particular holder of them. That’s too easy. This is too complicated. And we’re better than that. This was a sick young man.
“We had no idea of the darkness that Mark must have been in,” an aunt told CNN and the Statesman Wednesday afternoon, saying she was speaking on behalf of his family and expressing prayers for “families that have lost loved ones, for those impacted in any way, and for the soul of our Mark.”
“Our family is a normal family in every way,” the Conditts said.
When it comes to families, normal is relative.
In a very real way, our whole community was wounded during this maniacal mayhem. There’s a chance we may never be the same again.
But there’s an even better chance that we’ll come out of it in better shape than many communities would. Austin’s kind of weird that way.