Communities in the U.S. are shaken by recent news of three connected bomb package blasts in Austin, Texas. The blasts have killed two and injured two others in the Texas capital in 10 days.
The latest victim is 17-year-old Draylen Mason who died in his home where a parcel bomb exploded. His mother, 40 years old, was also injured but is in stable condition. She has not been identified.
Though no motive has been found for the blasts, Austin police believe they may be a string of related hate crimes.
“We are just not going to ignore that fact that the three victims that were targeted … were all people of color. We cannot ignore that. That is something we have to pay attention to. That does not indicate that it’s a hate crime. But we’re not going to rule that out because we don’t want to limit anything that we’re considering,” Austin Police Chief Brian Manley said on Tuesday.
On March 2nd, a bomb explosion killed Anthony Stephan House, a 39-year-old African-American man in Austin. Police initially downplayed this blast, believing the bombing was retaliation for a police operation at a drug stash house a few days earlier. But the blast at Mason’s home sent them scrambling back between both homes looking for evidence. Both House and Mason are relatives of prominent members of Austin’s African-American community.
A 75-year-old Hispanic woman was also seriously hurt in a second package explosion in east Austin on Monday. She remains in critical condition with life-threatening injuries.
Police say the bombs took “a level of skill” to construct and have cautioned Texan residents to remain vigilant of parcels. Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton said the following on Twitter, “With three reported explosions in the Austin area, I want to urge all Texans to report any suspicious or unexpected packages arriving by mail to local law enforcement authorities. Call 911 immediately if you receive something suspicious”.
Texas governor, Greg Abbott, announced a $15,000 reward for information leading to the arrest of the person or persons involved in the package blasts. Houston ATF, the San Antonio FBI division and Austin Police Department, announced a reward of an additional $50,000 on Tuesday.
Mason was a talented musician with the Austin Youth Orchestra where he played double bass. He was heading to college, at the selective Butler School of Music at the University of Texas at Austin in September. “He was an outstanding young man who was going places,” Manley said of him.
Many have taken to Twitter to share their grief over Mason’s senseless death.
His name is Draylen Mason. He was a natural musician, a student, the smartest man in the room, a future surgeon, a smile that made you smile.
Rest in power Draylen. pic.twitter.com/yEoNXR1bBO
— Valeria (@HTXValeria) March 13, 2018