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Incident at Goodwill Store Not a Bombing: ATF & Austin PD

One person was injured in a blast caused by an old military-style ordnance

Incident at Goodwill Store Not a Bombing: ATF & Austin PD
NBC 5 News

Police and federal authorities say the latest explosion to hit Austin was not related to the series of bombs that has rocked the state capital.

The Austin Police Department and the U.S. Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives said via Twitter that the blast Tuesday night at a Goodwill store in the southern part of the city wasn't caused by a package bomb, as initially reported, but an incendiary device.

"After our investigation on scene we did determine that this was not an explosive device. This incident is not related to any of other incident that we've had here in Austin. This was an old military-type ordnance that initiated in a person's hand and it did cause injury," said Austin Assistant Chief of Police Ely Reyes. "There's no reason for us to believe this is related to any of the other incidents that have occurred."

Gerald Davis, President of Goodwill told NBC News' Gabe Gutierrez that an employee was looking through a bag of donations when he noticed a flash. He said the employee had minor injuries to his hand.

"In an abundance of caution for our team and customers, all Goodwill stores will be closed," Goodwill of Central Texas which serves the Austin area said in a statement Tuesday night.

Reyes, urged the public to continue to be vigilant and if they "see something, say something."

The Tuesday night incident came as investigators persuing a suspected serial bomber terrorizing Austin for weeks uncovered what seemed like valuable new leads in the case. Those leads led officers to a vehicle parked at a hotel in Round Rock.

The suspected bomber, a 24-year-old white male, was fatally wounded after detonating a bomb as SWAT closed in on his vehicle, police said Wednesday morning.

The suspect is believed to be responsible for all the major Austin bombings, but authorities acknowledged it was too soon to say if the suspect had worked alone. Authorities also said they didn't know his motive.

Even before the report of the Goodwill blast, it had already been a busy day for authorities. Before dawn Tuesday, a bomb inside a package exploded around 1 a.m. as it passed along a conveyer belt at a FedEx shipping center near San Antonio, causing minor injuries to a worker. The Austin Police Department, the FBI and other federal agencies confirmed that the package center blast was related to four previous ones that killed two people and seriously injured four others.

That explosion occurred at a FedEx facility in Schertz, just northeast of San Antonio and about 60 miles southwest of Austin.

Later in the morning, police sent a bomb squad to a FedEx facility outside the Austin airport to check on a suspicious package that was reported around 6:20 a.m. Federal agencies and police later said that package had indeed contained an explosive that was successfully intercepted by authorities. They added that the intercepted package, too, was believed to be related to the other bombings.

Meanwhile, authorities also closed off an Austin-area FedEx store where they believe the bomb that exploded was shipped to the distribution center. They roped off a large area around the shopping center in the enclave of Sunset Valley and were collecting evidence, including surveillance camera footage.

Then, authorities closed off an Austin-area FedEx store where they believe the bomb that exploded was shipped to the distribution center -- roping off a large area around the shopping center in the enclave of Sunset Valley and were collecting evidence, including surveillance camera footage.

U.S. Rep. Michael McCaul, a Republican from Austin who is chairman of the House Homeland Security Committee, said that investigators have obtained surveillance videos that "could possibly" show a suspect, but are still poring through video.

"I hope his biggest mistake was going through FedEx," McCaul, who has spoken to federal investigators and Austin police Chief Brian Manley, said of the bomber in a phone interview.

Investigators Hone in on Unexploded Package at FedEx

[DFW] Investigators Hone in on Unexploded Package at FedEx

Investigators looking for clues in a series of bombings in Austin honed in on an unexploded package at a FedEx facility near the Austin Airport Tuesday.

(Published Tuesday, March 20, 2018)

He added that the person responsible for the bombings had previously been "very sophisticated in going around surveillance cameras."

"They've got a couple of videos that could possibly be the person but they're not sure at this point," McCaul said.

Before it exploded, the package had been sent from Austin and was addressed to a home in Austin, Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton said.

In a statement, FedEx officials said the same person responsible for sending the package also shipped a second parcel that has been secured and turned over to law enforcement. A company spokeswoman refused to say if that second package might have been linked to the one reported at the distribution center near the airport.

The Schertz blast came less than two days after a bombing wounded two men Sunday night in a quiet Austin neighborhood about 3 miles (5 kilometers) from the FedEx store. It was triggered by a nearly invisible tripwire, suggesting a "higher level of sophistication" than agents saw in three package bombs previously left on doorsteps, according to Fred Milanowski, the agent in charge of the Houston division of the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives.

A criminologist at the University of Alabama said if a single perpetrator is behind the blasts, changing the means of delivery increased the bomber's chance of getting caught.

"I think it would suggest that the bomber is trying to stay unpredictable," Adam Lankford said. "But it also increases the likelihood that he would make a mistake."

In Washington, President Donald Trump said the assailant behind the bombing is "very sick." During an Oval Office meeting Tuesday with Saudi Arabia's Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, Trump described the situation as "terrible." "This is obviously a very sick individual or individuals," and authorities are "working to get to the bottom of it."

Police repeated prior warnings about not touching unexpected packages and issued new ones to be wary of any stray object left in public, especially ones with protruding wires.

"We're very concerned that with tripwires, a child could be walking down a sidewalk and hit something," Christopher Combs, FBI agent in charge of the bureau's San Antonio division, said in an interview.

Police originally pointed to possible hate crimes, but the victims have now been black, Hispanic and white and from different parts of the city.

"We are clearly dealing with what we believe to be a serial bomber," Austin Police Chief Brian Manley said, citing similarities among the bombs. He would not elaborate, saying he did not want to undermine the investigation.

Bombing Investigators Search for Evidence in Schertz

[DFW] Bombing Investigators Search for Evidence in Schertz

The focus of the Austin bombings investigation turned to Sxhertz, 60 miles from Austin near San Antonio after a package exploded Tuesday at a FedEx processing facility there.

(Published Tuesday, March 20, 2018)

While the first three bombings all occurred east of Interstate 35, a section of town that tends to be more heavily minority and less affluent, Sunday's attack was west of the highway. The differences in location, the lack of a motive and other unknowns make it harder to draw conclusions about any possible pattern.

Thad Holt said he is now watching his steps as he makes his way through a section of town near the latest attack. "I think everybody can now say, `Oh, that's like my neighborhood,"' he said.

The latest bomb was anchored to a metal yard sign near the head of a hiking trail, Milanowski said.

"It was a thin wire or filament, kind of like fishing line," he said. "It would have been very difficult for someone to see."

Police asked anyone with surveillance cameras at home to come forward with the footage on the chance it captured suspicious vehicles or people.

The Hunt for a Suspect

Austin Official Updates on FedEx Suspicious Package

[DFW] Austin Official Updates on FedEx Suspicious Package

Officer Destiny Winston gives an update on officers responding to a suspicious package call at a FedEx location on McKinney Falls Parkway near Austin-Bergstrom International Airport.

(Published Tuesday, March 20, 2018)

Local and state police and hundreds of federal agents are investigating, and the reward for information leading to an arrest has climbed to $115,000.

"We are clearly dealing with what we believe to be a serial bomber at this point," Manley said, citing similarities among the four bombs. He would not elaborate, though, saying he didn't want to undermine the investigation.

While the first three bombings all occurred east of Interstate 35, a section of town that tends to be more heavily minority and less affluent, Sunday's was west of the highway. The differences in where the blasts have occurred, the lack of a motive and other unknowns make it harder to draw conclusions about a possible pattern, further unnerving a city on edge.

Thad Holt, 76, said he is now watching his steps as he makes his way through a section of town near the latest attack. "I think everybody can now say, 'Oh, that's like my neighborhood,'" he said.

The ATF's Milanowski said the latest bomb was anchored to a metal yard sign near the head of a hiking trail.

"It was a thin wire or filament, kind of like fishing line," he said. "It would have been very difficult for someone to see."

Officials Give Update After Bomb Detonates at Schertz FedEx

[DFW] Officials Give Update After Bomb Detonates at Schertz FedEx Facility

FBI officials and local law enforcement gave an update after a package exploded early Tuesday morning at a Schertz FedEx facility.

(Published Tuesday, March 20, 2018)

Milanowski said authorities have checked more than 500 leads. Police asked anyone with surveillance cameras at their homes to come forward with the footage on the chance it captured suspicious vehicles or people.

  

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