Austin bombings put police squad under emotional strain

April 1, 2018

AUSTIN, Texas (AP) — After a 16-hour workday investigating the Austin bombings, police Lt. Courtney Renfro arrived home to find Amazon packages on his doorstep.

Renfro paused, even though he had ordered the packages himself.

Members of the Austin police bomb squad investigated a series of explosions that killed two people and injured several others over a three-week period. They also dealt with the grueling toll of chasing thousands of reports of suspicious packages, and trying to locate a suspected bomber who turned out to have no criminal history.

Renfro told the Austin American-Statesman that the series of attacks left him “in utter shock that this was happening in our city.”

“I have always told the guys to be prepared, but something told me it’s never going to happen in little Austin,” he said.

As the bombings were occurring, bomb technicians responded to more calls during one key week than they had the entire year before. One day, Renfro said he found a fellow officer, Cpl. Jesse Carrillo, sleeping on the floor of his office.

“They were sleeping in their cars, sleeping in their offices, getting an hour here or there,” Renfro said.

Every explosion generated many more calls to police about suspicious packages or offering leads on the bomber.

“When a blast would happen, we would all have to respond,” Carrillo said. “Just as things would slow down, there would be another explosion.”

Beginning on March 2, police say 23-year-old Mark Anthony Conditt planted bombs in different parts of Austin, killing two people and severely wounding four others.

Authorities say he began by placing explosives in packages left overnight on doorsteps, killing 39-year-old Anthony Stephan House and 17-year-old musician Draylen Mason. He then rigged an explosive to a tripwire along a public trail, injuring two young men who crossed it. Finally, he sent two parcels with bombs via FedEx, one of which exploded and injured a worker at a distribution center near San Antonio.

Investigators say Conditt used one of his own devices to blow himself up as authorities approached his SUV before dawn on March 21.


Information from: Austin American-Statesman, http://www.statesman.com

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