Investigators searching for a potential motive for Austin Bomber Mark Anthony Conditt’s actions are no closer to answering the question of why he carried out a nearly three-week-long bombing spree that left two people dead. Conditt blew himself up inside his SUV early Wednesday, shortly after a SWAT team performed a tactical maneuver to force him to stop the SUV.
Conditt went to a FedEx store south of Austin on Sunday and made the mistake of parking within view of a surveillance camera that captured the vehicle’s license plates on his red SUV. Surveillance photos from the mail delivery office showed Conditt wearing a baseball cap, blond wig and pink gloves as he brought two packages to the store. Investigators used cellphone technology to track him down on Wednesday and to confirm that he had been to all of the bombing locations.
The early morning confrontation started after his SUV was located in a parking lot of a hotel in Round Rock. As plainclothes officers and unmarked vehicles descended on the area while a ballistics and SWAT team were enroute. The officers then followed Conditt as he pulled out of the parking lot and onto Interstate 35 where he ultimately detonated a bomb as officers approached his vehicle.
Investigators say they are no closer to understanding a motive and are relying on Mark Anthony Conditt’s own words from a 25-minute recording he made hours before he was confronted by the SWAT team. In the cellphone recording, Conditt, 23, refers to himself as a “psychopath” and showed no remorse for carrying out the deadly bombings and spreading fear across the city. Federal agents searched Conditt’s home in Pflugerville for almost two days, removing explosive materials and looking for clues that could point to a reason for the bombings. Two of Conditt’s roommates were detained and questioned by police. One of them was released hours after Conditt’s death and the other was released the next afternoon, police said. Neither was arrested or publicly identified.
Investigators found components for making similar bombs to the ones that exploded in the past few weeks, but no finished bombs were found, according to the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives. A law enforcement source said the devices that exploded in Austin and near San Antonio were pipe bombs with batteries and smokeless powder and were constructed with materials found in a hardware or sporting goods store. The bombs had distinctive shrapnel inside with some using “mousetrap” switches and others using “clothespin” switches. Chief Brian Manley of the Austin Police Department said that Mr. Conditt had made a 25-minute recording in which he discussed the bombs and how he had made them. The recording, Chief Manley said, was “the outcry of a very challenged young man talking about challenges in his personal life that led him to this point.”
According to friends and neighbors, Conditt was an intense, socially awkward loner, who was the oldest child in a tight-knit, devout Christian family that held Bible study groups in their home. Conditt was unemployed and had no criminal history. He had worked for a local manufacturer, Crux Manufacturing, for about four years until he was fired this past August after he failed to meet job expectations, according to a statement from the company.
Austin Mayor Steve Adler said the city’s “collective fear and anxiety” was growing as the bomber carried out the string of attacks. “There was feeling that there was not much that we could do. There was a collective helplessness, our community was beginning to fray,” Adler said at a City Council meeting. He added that it appeared that Mr. Conditt had acted alone, but authorities had not definitively ruled out whether he had any accomplices.