Austin (US): Emergency teams rushed today to another reported explosion in Austin — this one at a Goodwill store — but police and federal authorities said the blast wasn’t related to recent bombings that have killed and injured people and caused panic across Texas’ capital for weeks.
Police and emergency response teams said an “incendiary device” exploded, injuring a man in his 30s. Nearby stores, shopping centres and restaurants were evacuated. But police and the US Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives said a short time later that it was unrelated to the previous blasts.
Gary Davis, president and CEO of Goodwill Texas, stood outside a police barrier huddling with other Goodwill employees. He said the device was contained in a bag and detonated when a worker moved it. “We put all the donations we get in a big cardboard box. He pulled something out in a bag, completely normal, and the device went off,” Davis said.
He added: “In this town, if an incendiary device goes off, everybody just scatters and panics. We’re all on edge.” That incident came as investigators who have pursued a suspected serial bomber terrorising Austin for weeks uncovered what seemed like valuable new leads. Even before the report of today’s explosion, it had already been a busy day. Before dawn, a bomb inside a package exploded around 1 am (local time) as it passed along a conveyor belt at a FedEx shipping centre near San Antonio, causing minor injuries to a worker.
The Austin Police Department, the FBI and other federal agencies confirmed that the package centre blast was related to four previous ones that killed two people and seriously injured four others. That explosion occurred at a FedEx facility in Schertz, northeast of San Antonio and about 95 kilometres southwest of Austin. Later in the day, police sent a bomb squad to a FedEx facility outside the Austin airport to check on a suspicious package that was reported. 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 was shipped to the distribution centre. They roped off a large area around the shopping centre in the enclave of Sunset Valley and were collecting evidence, including surveillance camera footage. US Rep. Michael McCaul, a Republican from Austin who is chairman of the House Homeland Security Committee, said that investigators have obtained surveillance videos that “could possibly” show a suspect, but are still poring through video.
“I hope his biggest mistake was going through FedEx,” McCaul, who has spoken to federal investigators and Austin police Chief Brian Manley, said of the bomber in a phone interview. He added that the person responsible for the bombings had previously been “very sophisticated in going around surveillance cameras.” “They’ve got a couple of videos that could possibly be the person but they’re not sure at this point,” McCaul said. Before it exploded, the package had been sent from Austin and was addressed to a home in Austin, Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton said.
In a statement, FedEx officials said the same person responsible for sending the package also shipped a second parcel that has been secured and turned over to law enforcement. A company spokeswoman refused to say if that second package might have been linked to the one reported at the distribution centre near the airport.