Two killed in city’s second Package bombing in March

Emergency crews on scene at a fatal explosion in east Austin on Oldfort Hill Drive March 12, 2018 (AFD Photo)

AUSTIN (KXAN) – Two deadly explosions in Austin in the last two weeks are likely related, Austin police said Monday as they investigated the latest incident at a home in east Austin.

“I want the public to be aware and to be cautious because, again, we have two cases that are very similar and that have both resulted in a loss of life and until we find who committed this act and take them into custody, then yes it is appropriate for residents to be concerned if you receive a package you were not expecting,” interim police chief Brian Manley said at a press conference.

Austin-Travis County EMS says a 17-year-old boy died at the scene and a woman was taken to a hospital after the explosion around 6:44 a.m. in the 4800 block of Oldfort Hill Drive, which is between 51st Street and Martin Luther King Jr. Boulevard. Manley said one of the residents had taken a package from the front porch inside and it exploded when they tried to open it in the kitchen. The woman had non-life-threatening injuries, police said.

Police initially investigated a second package they found in the home, but determined it was not a danger. As a precaution, they cleared media and others away from the area and used CapMetro buses to evacuate those nearby.

The Federal Bureau of Investigation is responding to the scene to assist the Austin Police Department, as is APD’s bomb squad and its robot. The Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives, as well as the postal inspector will help the investigation.

Second explosion in a month

A man died at his home at the beginning of March after a “device” exploded, police say. Anthony Stephan House died after the explosion on his front porch around 6:55 a.m. March 2, on the 1100 block of Haverford Drive, which is about 12 miles away from Oldfort Hill Drive neighborhood.

“If you’ve received a package that has been left on your doorstep or left in your yard or left on your driveway that you were not expecting … then give us a call.”

Police said at the time they believed the Haverford Drive explosion was an isolated incident. Now, they are investigating them as related, and re-classified House’s death from “suspicious” to “homicide.”

“We do see similarities and believe these cases are linked at this time,” Manley said. He acknowledged that both victims were African-American. He said at this point police are not ruling out that these incidents could be hate crimes, but cannot confirm at this time that they were.

“We’re just acknowledging and we’re looking at any possible motivations that would link these two cases together so that we can put this case together, understanding the victimology and who might these individuals had known and had in common,” Manley said.

Police say they know what the first explosive device was, but are not sharing specifics during the investigation.

Beware suspicious packages

Police say the package that arrived at House’s home was not delivered through the U.S. Postal Service or any other delivery service. They are working to determine if the second package was delivered by a company or dropped off by an individual. USPS says it did not deliver the second package.

Police said they believe the person or people delivering the package did so at night, and are warning people to be aware of deliveries they are not expecting.

“If you’ve received a package that has been left on your doorstep or left in your yard or left on your driveway that you were not expecting or that was not from someone you know, then give us a call,” Manley said, adding that “it’s better to be safe” and that people shouldn’t handle the packages.