Six explosive devices detonated in the Austin and San Antonio areas this month, killing two people and injuring four. The serial bomber, later identified as Mark Anthony Conditt, died after allegedly detonating a device in his car in a hotel parking lot located in Round Rock, Texas, as police approached the vehicle, according to Dallas News.
Harding Senior Advancement Officer Ken Bissell, a previous resident of Round Rock, was in the Austin area visiting alumni and potential donors when he learned the bomber was found less than a quarter-mile from his hotel.
Bissell said he was sleeping in his hotel off Interstate 35 when he was awakened by sirens around 3:30 a.m. Wednesday morning. Thinking it was a normal event, Bissell rolled back to sleep until he was awakened again and later learned that the suspected bomber had been found.
“It’s a little surreal (to be that close),” Bissell said. “Certainly, when something like that happens in close proximity, if you know about it, you’re alarmed … I didn’t know what was happening until after it had taken place, so I wasn’t frightened by it, but I was shocked to find out that it was right there.”
The bombs were casually packaged, causing uncertainty for city residents, according to the Houston Public Media. Five of the six explosives were reported as homemade, the work of what Austin police are calling a ‘serial bomber.’
Senior Jenna Cruz, a lifelong resident of Austin, said that her family is worried for their safety.
“My immediate family all live in the Austin area, and I do think we’re all a little on edge now,” Cruz said. “We joke about how you just can’t go out and do things anymore, but there is a really sad truth to that.”
Bissell said he was aware of the bombings before his visit to Austin, but did not understand the influence the events had for the residents.
“Most of my conversations had centered around the situation regarding the bomber,” Bissell said. “I met with one person in Austin, one person in Round Rock and none of the bombings took place in their neighborhoods or in their general area, but there was a lot of fear. … That’s when I became aware of how much impact it was having on the community, and today, after the fact having to talk to some people, I realize again how impactful it was.”
The Austin Police Department worked with federal law enforcement to track the suspect’s activities, ultimately using receipts and surveillance footage to locate him, according to the Texas Tribune. Texas Gov. Greg Abbott announced the news on March 21 and congratulated the law enforcement involved on excellent work.
Despite the bombings, Cruz said she always felt safe growing up in the Austin area.
“It is very strange to have these bombings, since they are so uncharacteristic from what I know. There has never been anything of this nature before,” Cruz said.
Senior Shannon McCurdy, an Austin native whose family recently moved to Dallas, said she often felt safe enough in the city to walk alone at night.
“It was an amazing city to grow up in, with so many great things to do and places to explore. I have always felt very safe in the city,” McCurdy said. “Now, I am worried for my friends. A lot of them live and work downtown and in the surrounding suburb.”
According to a statement made by the Austin Police Department on Wednesday afternoon, authorities say they are fairly certain that no other explosive devices remain in the public, though they encouraged civilians to remain cautious of unmarked or suspicious packages. The investigation remains open.
Written by Savanna DiStefano and Anna Little