AUSTIN, Texas — A 75-year-old woman was killed after picking up an exploding package outside her Southeast Austin home on Monday in the second blast reported in the city and the third similar incident in two weeks, Austin police said.
Interim Police Chief Brian Manley confirmed that evidence suggested that this bombing was related to two previous blasts from “box-type deliveries” that killed a teenager earlier in the day and a 39-year-old man 10 days ago.
Manley warned the public about receiving unexpected or suspicious-looking deliveries in an “average-size delivery box,” but declined to offer more specifics about the packages to protect the integrity of the investigation.
He said the devices can be detonated by moving or by opening the boxes.
“Assigning a motive is not possible at this stage in the investigation,” Manley said, adding that police were willing to investigate any avenue.
“We will leave no stone unturned because we will not allow this to go on in this city,” he said.
The chief said authorities did not have a description of suspects or suspected vehicles.
So it was “imperative that you come forward if you know something,” he said. “We have innocent people being hurt.”
Emergency personnel responded to the 6700 block of Galindo Street on Monday, just five hours after authorities began investigating a package bombing that killed a 17-year-old and seriously injured a woman in her 40s in East Austin, Manley said.
The woman was hospitalized with critical injuries, he said.
Federal investigators with the FBI, the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives, and the U.S. Postal Service were working with police, Manley said.
“It’s not time to panic, but it is time to be vigilant,” Manley said. “If you see a suspicious package on yours or somebody else’s doorstep, let us know.”
Meanwhile, Texas Gov. Greg Abbott said his office’s Criminal Justice Division would offer a reward of up to $15,000 for information leading to the arrest of the person or people involved in the package bombs.
“As the investigation continues, the state of Texas will provide any resources necessary to ensure the safety of our citizens, and quickly bring those guilty to justice,” he said in a statement.
The incidents are being investigated by police and federal authorities, as a homicide, Manley said.
He also said that investigators were not ruling out the possibility of the explosions being a hate crime because the victims in those cases are African-American.
The U.S. Postal Service told investigators that the packages did not come through their facilities, so the packages were likely left by someone at the doorstep, Manley said.
Manley said authorities know what kind of explosive devices were used, but they are not revealing details in order to preserve the integrity of the investigation.
Manley said people can call 911 if they believe they have received a suspicious or unexpected package left at their homes.
“We will not tolerate this in Austin,” Manley said.
Police did not identify the teenager or the woman and have released few details about the East Austin package.
In the package explosion on March 2, Austin police responded to a home in the 1100 block of Haverford Drive around 6:55 a.m.
First responders took 39-year-old Anthony Stephan House to a hospital, but he died from his injuries shortly after the blast.
Since then, authorities have not named anyone who may have been involved.
Yasmin Navarro said she lives on Galindo Street in the house across from the one where the explosion happened Monday.
She said she was at work when she got news of the blast. She said she spoke with a friend from California who told her to check on her mother and sister because there had been an explosion at their house.
When she got back to Galindo Street, the road was shut down, and she couldn’t get back to her house.
She said she’s scared because she’s heard of other bombs throughout the city.
“I’m scared for everyone’s safety,” she said in Spanish. “It hurts me a lot that she’s hurt, or that something else is going to happen.