By Frederick H. Lowe
Three bomb blasts in less than two weeks throughout Austin, Texas, that have killed a black man and a black teenager and injured two women may be related and could be hate crimes.
The bombs were enclosed in packages placed by an unknown person or persons on the victims’ front-door steps. Once the person opened the package, the bombs exploded.
Neither FedEx, the U.S. Postal Service nor UPS delivered the packages.
“If you receive a package that you are not expecting or looks suspicious, DO NOT open it, call 911 immediately. Help us spread this message,” Austin police chief Brian Manley warned in a Tweet. As of Tuesday morning, police received 150 calls complaining about suspicious packages.
Texas Governor Greg Abbott is offering a reward of up to $15,000 for information leading to the identification and arrest of the person or persons involved in the bombings that occurred over the last 10 days.
The first bombing, which occurred at 6:55 a.m. on March 2, killed Anthony Stephan House, 39, according to the City of Austin. House found a package on his front steps and took it into his house to open it when the bomb exploded. He later died at a nearby hospital. Initially, police suspected House constructed the bomb, and they did not warn the public, according to several news outlets.
Police treated his murder as a suspicious death. Later, they changed it to a homicide, after the other bombings occurred.
Early Monday morning, March 12, a packaged bomb exploded, killing 17-year-old Draylen Mason and injuring his mother, who isn’t named, according to police. The bomb exploded when Mason opened the package.
Later the same day, a bomb exploded, injuring Esperanza Morena, a 75-year old Hispanic woman. When she attempted to open a package she found on her porch, the bomb inside it exploded.
The three bombings occurred in different Austin neighborhoods, miles away from each other.
Manley said he is considering whether the bombings are race related because the first three victims were black. He told local news outlets he’s not ruling anything out.
Law enforcement officials said the bomb maker must be very skilled because the bombs don’t explode when he or she is transporting the weapon to their destinations. They explode when someone opens the package.
Bombings have been used as weapons by white racists and Hispanic street gangs against blacks to kill them, to damage or destroy their property, and to frighten them.
On September 15, 1963, members of the Klu Klux Klan bombed 16th Street Baptist Church in Birmingham, Alabama, killing four girls. Bombings of black churches and black homes in Birmingham were so common in the early 1960s, the city was nicknamed “Bombingham.”
One of the deadliest and most destructive bombings occurred in Tulsa, Oklahoma, between May 31 and June 1, 1921, when a white mob led by the police and encouraged by the KKK, bombed from the air and burned to the ground “Black Wall Street,” one of the wealthiest black communities in the nation. An estimated 300 to 3,000 people died during the fight. Whites also destroyed 35 blocks of Greenwood, a black neighborhood, leaving 10,000 African Americans homeless.
And in Compton, California, Hispanic gangs, directed by the Mexican Mafia, have been arrested for firebombing the homes of black residents to force them to move. The bombings began in 2012.