Parents shocked after son ID’d as Austin bomber

PFLUGERVILLE, Texas — Investigators detained and questioned two roommates of the Austin bombing suspect Wednesday as officials sought to determine whether Mark Anthony Conditt had any help as he terrorized Texas’ capital city over the last month.

One of the roommates has already been released, while the other was still being questioned, Austin police said on Twitter, declining to release any names since no charges had been filed.

Officials also announced late Tuesday they had filed a federal bomb-possession charge and arrest warrant against Conditt shortly before he blew himself up early Wednesday following a brief police chase in the Austin suburb of Round Rock.

“Hundreds of federal, state and local law enforcement officers worked together to identify and locate Conditt,” U.S. Attorney John F. Bash said in a statement. The affidavit supporting the complaint, which might give details on how officials zeroed in on Conditt, remained under seal Wednesday afternoon.

Officials warned that Conditt may have planted or mailed more bombs before killing himself. More than a dozen square blocks of his hometown of Pflugerville, a northeastern suburb of Austin, were evacuated as officials searched the area.

While investigators have not revealed a possible motive for Conditt’s actions, a portrait emerged Wednesday of an introverted Christian conservative who had been home-schooled and worked at a local manufacturing company before being fired last year.

In a statement released to CNN, Conditt’s parents said they were in shock and grieved for the victims in the string of bombings.

“We are devastated and broken at the news that our family could be involved in such an awful way,” the family said. “We had no idea of the darkness that Mark must have been in.

Austin Police Homicide Detective David Fugitt said Conditt’s family has been “very cooperative,” adding that officials didn’t have any indication the family knew Conditt was involved with the bombings.

Conditt took classes at Austin Community College between 2010 and 2012 and apparently was home-schooled, according to college officials and social media posts from his mother. Community college officials said he was a business administration major and did not graduate, but that he left in good academic standing. In an old blog under Conditt’s name, started apparently as part of a community college class assignment, the author wrote in 2012 that he was conservative but “not that politically inclined,” writing posts opposing abortion, favoring the death penalty and arguing that gay marriage should be illegal.

“I view myself as a conservative, but I don’t think I have enough information to defend my stance as well as it should be defended,” read the blog’s biography page. “The reasons I am taking this class is because I want to understand the US government, and I hope that it will help me clarify my stance, and then defend it.”

In a post in favor of the death penalty, the author wrote, “Living criminals harm and murder, again — executed ones do not.” The blog’s final post is dated May 2012.

Community college officials said he was a business administration major and did not graduate, but that he left in good academic standing. His last classes were in 2012.

“We are working with Austin Police Department to provide any information they need,” college spokeswoman Jessica Vess said in an email.

Information about Conditt’s home-schooling could not be obtained from Texas state education officials. “Texas has no authority over home-schooling, and we don’t keep any type of school records on such,” said DeEtta Culbertson, a spokeswoman for the Texas Education Agency.

Jeff Reeb, a neighbor of the Conditts since they moved to the area 17 years ago, described Conditt as “a quiet youngster” who played with Reeb’s grandson.

Conditt, the family’s oldest child, moved away from home in recent years and bought a house but returned home to visit, Reeb said.

On Conditt’s blog in 2012, he listed his hobbies as cycling, parkour, tennis, reading and listening to music. The Conditt home has a deck, a trampoline, a treehouse and a pool in a large, grassy yard.

“They’re church-going people, extremely good neighbors. I like them a lot,” Reeb said. Reeb was surprised to see reporters arrive at his street, the first clue the bombing suspect could be someone he knew.

Reeb said he saw the Conditts daily and last saw the suspect visit his parents last week — which would have been after the bombings began.

“I was hoping they were wrong,” Reeb said of reports identifying Mark Conditt as the bombing suspect, adding that he didn’t recognize Conditt in surveillance footage from an Austin FedEx store that showed the bomber with long, blond hair. “I’m not sure I still believe it — it makes no sense whatsoever.”

One of the Conditt family’s neighbors, Beverly Canales, 56, a stay-at-home mom, said she did not know the family, although her two daughters, ages 23 and 24, attended Austin Community College about the same time Conditt did.

They were scrutinizing photos of the suspected bomber Wednesday, comparing them to high school yearbooks and trying to remember if they had seen him.

“Our little town of Pflugerville had our own Unabomber,” she said.

Mark Roessler, 57, lived across the street from Conditt, and he sometimes chatted with Conditt and Conditt’s father., who came over occasionally to help remodel the home.

“It’s a quiet neighborhood and he blended right in,” Roessler said.

When he left for his job as a manager at a medical device company at 6:30 a.m. Wednesday, Roessler was met by FBI agents with guns drawn who surrounded the area and evacuated homes.

“I feel for the family and for the father,” Roessler said. “Having two sons of my own, I can only imagine what he is going through. The whole Austin community was living in fear. … Everybody is relieved, but still not understanding and waiting for answers.”

Conditt worked for several years at a local semiconductor manufacturer, Crux Manufacturing, before he was fired last August for poor performance, according to KVUE-TV.

Investigators began zeroing in on Conditt over the last two days, and officials were moving to make an arrest at a hotel in the suburb of Round Rock when Conditt began driving away, Austin Police Chief Brian Manley said at a news conference.

The vehicle ran into a ditch, and as officers approached, the suspect detonated an explosive that killed him and knocked one officer back, Manley said. Police fired a single shot at the car.

Conditt’s death followed days of rapid developments in the case.

On Tuesday, a bomb inside a package exploded on a conveyor belt at a FedEx shipping center in Schertz, northeast of San Antonio and about 60 miles from Austin. One worker was treated at the scene for minor injuries.

It was the fifth in a series of bombings this month that left two people dead, four others injured and the state capital shaken.

Tribune News Service
Published by
Tribune News Service

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