It has been eight days since the man behind a series of deadly bombings in Austin, Texas, killed himself in an explosion; about 10 days since authorities first referred to the killer as a “serial bomber”; 16 days since authorities confirmed suspicions about the connection between the occurring explosions; and 27 days since the first victim was killed in what police originally called an “isolated incident.” And finally, for the first time since all of this, Austin’s police chief is calling the killer—responsible for the explosions that killed two and seriously injured four others—a “domestic terrorist.”
As the Associated Press notes, Austin Police Chief Brian Manley had been hesitant about calling the bombings
what they were an act of domestic terrorism, citing the ongoing investigation. That hesitancy came to an end Thursday when Manley formally called the bomber a “domestic terrorist for what he did to us.”
Mark Conditt, the white terrorist behind the series of attacks, blew himself up as authorities closed in on him March 21. He had been identified as the suspect responsible for leaving several package bombs around Austin, including one that was triggered by a tripwire in a residential area, and attempting to mail at least one package bomb through a local FedEx.
Manley had previously called Conditt a “very troubled young man” (because white), which naturally drew swift criticism because that characterization is rarely afforded to people of color.
Now, I suppose, there has been enough investigation (and outcry) for Manley to call Conditt what he was.
“This is a distinction I wanted to make today,” Manley said at a panel discussion on Thursday, the Austin-American Statesman reports.
Manley claimed that he was trying to be sensitive about the terms he used, knowing that the case would end up in the legal system.
“I was so focused that we put a stop to it,” the chief said, adding that he was now comfortable calling the bombings domestic terrorism.
An audience member, Kristina Brown, said that Manley’s change of terms came “too little, too late.”
“We don’t know, we will not know, what that qualification more early in the investigation would have done, what resources would have been provided to make sure that more lives were not lost,” Brown said.
“The way the media covered this story, this ‘troubled young man.’ Was the young man troubled? Absolutely. But he was a troubled young man that turned out to be a terrorist,” Austin Justice Coalition leader Chas Moore said. “Because he was white, we gave him the benefit of being a human first.”
In addition to discussing the attacks, the panelists touched on the racial tensions that were stirred up in the wake of the bombings and the investigation. Some folks believed that the attacks were racially motivated because the first three victims were black or Hispanic. Manley, however, said that a recorded “confession” left by Conditt revealed that his motives were neither racial nor political.
Moore referred to the “myth” that Austin is a “big, beautiful, diverse pie,” saying, “Our white brothers and sisters are going to have to learn how to be comfortable while being uncomfortable talking about race.”