The suspect in a spate of bombing attacks in Austin that have killed two people and injured four others this month blew himself up with an explosive device as authorities closed in, the city police said early Wednesday.
Authorities had zeroed in on the suspect in the last 24 to 36 hours and located him at a hotel on Interstate 35 in the Austin suburb of Round Rock, Austin Police Chief Brian Manley said at a news conference. They were waiting for ballistic vehicles to arrive when his vehicle began to drive away, Manley said. Authorities followed the vehicle, which stopped in a ditch on the side of the road, the police chief said.
When members of the SWAT team approached, the suspect detonated an explosive device inside the vehicle, the police chief said. The blast knocked back one officer, while a second officer fired his weapon, Manley said.
The suspect, who suffered significant injuries from the blast, was killed. Authorities identified him only as a 24-year-old white man.
Authorities said it was too soon to say if the suspect had worked alone. They also said they don’t know his motive.
Earlier Wednesday, the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives said federal and local authorities had converged on an area where the bombing suspect was holed up in the capital city.
“ATF is with @Austin_Police and @FBISanAntonio on I-35 at the scene of the individual suspected in the #packagebombmurders,” the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives tweeted.
Police in Austin tweeted that they were working an officer-involved shooting on Interstate 35.
On Tuesday, a bomb inside a package exploded around 1 a.m. as it passed along a conveyer belt at a FedEx shipping centre in Schertz, northeast of San Antonio and about 95 kilometres southwest of Austin. One worker reported ringing in her ears and was treated at the scene.
Later in the morning, police sent a bomb squad to a FedEx facility outside the Austin airport to check on a suspicious package. Federal agencies and police later said that package had indeed contained an explosive that was successfully intercepted and that it, too, was tied to the other bombings.
Authorities also closed off an Austin-area FedEx store where they believe the bomb that exploded in Schertz was shipped. They roped off a large area around the shopping centre in the enclave of Sunset Valley and were collecting evidence.
The Schertz blast came two days after a bombing wounded two men Sunday night in a quiet Austin neighbourhood about five kilometres 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 U.S. Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives.
Authorities have not identified the two men who were hurt Sunday, saying only that they are in their 20s. But William Grote told The Associated Press that his grandson was one of them and that he had what appeared to be nails embedded in his knees.