Texas Police Respond To A 5th Package Explosion

Mar 20, 2018
Originally published on March 20, 2018 8:48 am
Copyright 2018 NPR. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/.

NOEL KING, HOST:

And we're going to go now to Texas. A package bomb exploded early this morning inside of a FedEx distribution center near San Antonio. Authorities say they believe this explosion is linked to a series of bomb blasts in Austin, Texas. NPR's John Burnett is on the line with us from Austin. Hey, John.

JOHN BURNETT, BYLINE: Hi, Noel.

KING: So authorities now say they believe these bombings are linked?

BURNETT: Indeed. They're working on the assumption that it's the same serial bomber that put together this fifth bomb, that, as you said, exploded in a big FedEx distribution center in the city of Schertz. I spoke with the FBI in the last hour, and they confirmed it was addressed to Austin. It exploded shortly after midnight last night. It was filled with nails and other metal shrapnel. No reports of an injury. It's a giant facility, and the box was reportedly moving on a conveyor belt when it went off. And federal investigators, obviously, are looking for links to the four bombings in Austin. That's all we have at the moment, Noel.

KING: What is the FBI saying about the bomber? Are they speculating on a behavioral profile for this person?

BURNETT: Well, the behavioral profilers from the FBI are in town now from Quantico, Va., supposedly the best in the business, and they're looking for clues as to who this bomber is. The officials are not saying publicly what their hunches are. Chris Combs, the FBI special agent in charge down here, said they feel like at this point the bomber wants to get a message across, he wants to take credit for these explosions. And so in this extraordinary public message, the investigators are reaching out to the bomber and asking him to get in touch. This is from a press conference yesterday morning.

(SOUNDBITE OF PRESS CONFERENCE)

CHRIS COMBS: We would like the bomber to reach out to us so we can talk to them, so that we can understand, why are they doing this? Is it terrorism? Is it civil rights? Is it something completely off the radar? We don't know that, and that's why it's important to get this dialogue going.

KING: As you say, that is an extraordinary message. Tell us about the four bombings in the city of Austin. Who do they appear to be targeting?

BURNETT: Well, most importantly, we don't really know who they're targeting now because at first they thought that there was a racial component in this since many of them blew up east of I-35, which had a lot of minority neighborhoods. But then the last, two young guys in their 20s who were walking on this trail that were struck by a bomb attached to a tripwire - this was on Sunday night - they were both Anglo. But what's important about this last bomb that went off in the FedEx facility is it presumably didn't reach its destination. It's the first one that didn't. It blew up in transit...

KING: On its way to Austin. Yeah.

BURNETT: Correct. It was addressed to Austin. And moreover, it was sent through FedEx and not the U.S. Postal Service.

KING: And from what we understand, there's basically an army of federal and state bomb experts down in Austin right now. What are they learning? What have they found out?

BURNETT: Well, they're obviously looking at all of the evidence that happens when one of these bombs explodes. There was a former ATF expert who told me yesterday that 98 percent of the bomb is out there on the ground in addition to the chemical signature. So they're putting this jigsaw puzzle together and trying to find out, you know, where the components were purchased. Moreover, the police chief has said anybody in Austin who suspects a package or a backpack or a box is suspicious to call 911. So you need to have all of these bomb techs here and K9 dogs to go out and check all these suspicious packages. This is a city of a million people. University of Texas, 50,000 students. So there's a lot of people in my city who are very, very nervous now. Lots and lots of calls to 911 to check out suspicious packages.

KING: NPR's John Burnett in Austin. John, thank you so much.

BURNETT: You bet, Noel. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.