After two people were killed by explosive packages left on their front doorsteps within 10 days of each other, police are investigating both cases as homicides and believe they could be connected.
The latest deadly explosion happened on Monday, March 12 just before 6:45 a.m. at a single-family home in the in the 4800 block of Oldfort Hill Drive, near 51st Street and Martin Luther King Jr. Boulevard. Police said they received a report from a caller that there was some type of explosion and that two people were injured.
When law enforcement arrived at the scene, they found that the explosion happened in the kitchen of the home. A 17-year-old boy died from injuries sustained from the blast. Austin-Travis County Emergency Medical Services took a woman in her 40s to Dell Seton Medical Center, and she is expected to be okay, Austin police confirmed at a press conference. No one else was injured in the explosion.
Austin Interim Police Chief Brian Manley said based on the preliminary investigation, it is believed that one of the victims picked up a package from the front porch and brought it into the kitchen. Manley said the package exploded after they opened it.
Out of an abundance of caution, police said they evacuated neighbors on each side of the street due to the fear that there could have been a second package at the scene. Police said they determined later that the second package was unrelated to the device that killed the teen after an investigation by the bomb squad.
Austin Fire, the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives, and the FBI are assisting with the investigation.
The United States Postal Service told police that they reviewed their records, and they can confirm that the package did not come through the postal service.
Monday’s explosion follows a deadly explosion at a home in Northeast Austin on Friday, March 2. Police said they have reclassified that investigation as a homicide, and cannot rule out that the two explosions aren’t related. Police said they know what the explosives devices in each case were but could not elaborate due to the integrity of the investigation. Police said the package in the first home explosion on March 2 was not connected to a specific carrier or vendor, and are reviewing other carriers besides the U.S. Postal Service for Monday’s package.
“We are looking at these incidents as being related based on similarities that we have seen and the initial evidence that we have on hand here,” Manley said.
However, a motive in the two incidents remains unclear at this time. Manley said they do know that the two victims in both cases were African Americans and they cannot rule out that the incidents were hate crimes.
With this latest revelation, Austin police are issuing a warning to people who see packages outside of their home. Manley said in both cases, the suspect delivered the packages during the nighttime, and the victims found them in the morning on their doorstep.
“If you find any suspicious packages on your front porch, at your residence, call 9-1-1. And let us come out and take a look at those packages and ensure that they are safe,” Manley said.
Manley said all of the agencies are working to gather evidence from the scene so that they can have it analyzed.
“We are not going to tolerate this in Austin, and you have seen every stop will be pulled out… the federal agencies are with us to lend us a hand and to bring this to as quick as a resolution as possible,” Manley added.
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