Police in Austin are searching for whoever is behind a series of explosions at three homes in less than two weeks that has left two people dead. The nature of the incidents is puzzling police and rattling community members. Packages left at the victims’ homes have exploded upon being retrieved.
Tony Plohetski is one of a team of reporters covering the story for the Austin American-Statesman. Plohetski says investigators are focused on looking for connections among the victims.
“Authorities have really been working in the past 24 hours to try to establish what those connections may be, how strong those connections may be, or whether or not these are people who may be acquaintances of one another,” he says.
Investigators are looking at whether the incidents have a relationship to the African-American community.
“We know that at least one of the victims may have had a strong connection to an organization here in the city of Austin,” Plohetski says. “The interim police chief Brian Manley did say at a news conference yesterday he seemed to recognize that, at least at that point, two of the victims were African American men. But then we had the third case that happened yesterday, later in the day, and that person was a 75-year-old Hispanic woman.”
Plohetski says it appears that the packages weren’t delivered by the U.S. Postal Service.
“There are no indications at this point that they are being delivered by any kind of professional carrier service,” he says. “So that leads police to believe that someone is driving to these homes in the dead of night and leaving them at doorsteps so that the victims find them the next morning.”
Because of the ongoing investigation, authorities have not described what the packages looked like.
“Whoever is doing this, this is a well-practiced crime that they’re carrying out,” Plohetski says. “They’ve been able to come up with an explosive device that has what they call a trigger mechanism that is able to detonate when opened or picked up by the victims.”
Authorities believe the incidents are not connected to the SXSW festival going on in Austin.
“South By Southwest is going on as planned and as scheduled,” he says. “This started before South By Southwest came to town and it’s happening in areas of the city that are many miles, at least several miles, from South By Southwest, which is happening in downtown Austin.”
Written by Jen Rice.