Hours after the Austin bombing suspect’s death on Wednesday morning, authorities identified him as Mark Conditt, a 23-year-old resident of Austin suburb Pflugerville. And despite the revelation Wednesday evening that Conditt had created a 25-minute video confessing to building the bombs, police said the suspect did not offer a motive for why he might have planted and mailed six bombs in the Austin area between March 2 and March 20, killing two and injuring four. In the meantime, reporters and internet sleuths have combed the web, public records, and social media looking for answers, trying to paint a picture of what the suspect might have been like.
Wednesday afternoon, Conditt’s family—who police said they have no reason to believe was aware of any possible involvement— released a statement to CNN: “We are devastated and broken at the news that our family could be involved in such an awful way. We had no idea of the darkness that Mark must have been in,” an aunt who declined to give her full name said. “Our family is a normal family in every way. We love, we pray, and we try to inspire and serve others. Right now our prayers are for those families that have lost loved ones, for those impacted in any way, and for the soul of our Mark. We are grieving and we are in shock. Please respect our privacy as we deal with this terrible, terrible knowledge and try to support each other through this time.”
Understandably, those closest to Conditt won’t likely offer much more than blanket remarks as they navigate their own grief (his grandmother told CNN that he was “quiet, kind, and she’d never seen any signs of malice or violence in him”). But comments about Conditt’s seemingly normal comportment have already begun to appear in the media. “I know this is a cliché but I just can’t imagine that” Conditt could be the bomber, neighbor Jeff Reeb told the Austin American-Statesman, adding that Conditt seemed like a “normal” kid.
And so, once again, we are left with a scattershot portrait of a confessed serial bomber in the wake of a tragedy. Investigators are still working on understanding why the crime happened and if there was more than one person involved. But in the meantime, here are the things that we know about the Conditt.
His Suspected Crime
Conditt is linked to seven bombs, six of which detonated, that were found across Austin and surrounding areas over a period of nineteen days. Three package bombs exploded at homes in East Austin, one device was set off by a trip wire in a Southwest Austin neighborhood, and two others were discovered in FedEx facilities (one in Schertz exploded, and the other—found near the Austin airport—was discovered undetonated). And, finally, there was the bomb that police said Conditt detonated in his car, killing him and wounding an officer as SWAT team members closed in on him alongside Interstate 35.
Basic Background Information
The suspect was the the oldest of four siblings in a devout Christian family. All of the children were homeschooled by Conditt’s mother, Danene. “I officially graduated Mark from High School on Friday,” Danene wrote in a now-deleted Facebook post from February 2013. “1 down, 3 to go. He has 30 hrs of college credit too, but he’s thinking of taking some time to figure out what he wants to do….maybe a mission trip. Thanks to everyone for your support over the years.” Conditt studied business administration at Austin Community College from 2010 to 2012, but did not graduate.
Crux Manufacturing, which bills itself as a “turnkey manufacturing solutions company,” hired Conditt four years ago, when he was nineteen. The owner said that Conditt’s responsibilities included purchasing and sales. His employer commented that he “seemed like a smart kid who showed a lot of promise,” but he was fired this past August for failing to meet employee expectations.
Real estate records show that Conditt and his father bought a house in Pflugerville in 2017. A neighbor told the New York Times that the father and son had been remodeling the house together as a “bonding project” over the past year.
How He Died
Investigators tracked Conditt’s car to the parking lot of a Round Rock hotel and began staking him out from a distance as they waited on tactical teams to arrive. Before they arrived, however, Conditt drove out of the parking lot, and officers followed. The vehicle eventually came to a stop while traveling southbound on Interstate 35. As officers approached, Conditt detonated a bomb, killing himself and “knocking back” a SWAT officer, who sustained minor injuries.
He Talked About Making Bombs
Investigators found a 25-minute video on Conditt’s phone in which he talked at length about making bombs “with a level of specificity” that would constitute “a confession,” Austin police chief Brian Manley said at a press conference on Wednesday. “He does not at all mention anything about terrorism or anything about hate,” Manley said. “Instead, it is the outcry of a very challenged young man talking about challenges in his personal life that led him to this point.” That recording has not yet been released to the public.
How He Was Linked to the Bombings
Austin police chief Brian Manley told reporters Wednesday morning that investigators zeroed in on Conditt in the 24 to 36 hours leading up to his death. Their big break, however, was when Conditt walked into a FedEx shipping center earlier this week. The suspect was caught on surveillance footage entering the center with a package. The surveillance also captured him getting into a red 2002 Ford Ranger truck, but authorities were unable to see the license plate number. According to the New York Times, investigators started combing through registrations, looking for younger white males.
Investigators had another identifier, though: pink gloves. The person in the video wore distinctive work gloves that they determined could be found at Home Depot. So they set to work watching surveillance footage from surrounding Home Depots until footage from one store appeared to show the same person. From there, law enforcement was able to get the license plate number and, in turn, Conditt’s cell phone information, which investigators treated like a tracking advice.
Law enforcement officials told NBC that “exotic” batteries were used in making the bombs (“These weren’t your store-bought Duracells,” a law enforcement official said). Conditt’s history of ordering the batteries—one law enforcement officer said they came from Asia—online turned out to be a key in helping lead law enforcement to the suspect and linking the six explosions.
Explosives Were Found in His Home
Conditt’s neighbors were asked to evacuate their homes as explosive devices found in the residence that Conditt shared with two other roommates were removed. At 3:30 p.m., the FBI tweeted that it was working with the ATF to safely dispose of the devices, but neighbors didn’t get an all-clear from the Pflugerville Police Department until 8:40 p.m.
Conditt’s roommates were taken into custody for questioning on Wednesday. One of them has been released.
He Kept a Politically Charged Blog
As part of a government course he was taking at Austin Community College, Conditt kept a blog that chronicled his views on everything from the death penalty (he was in favor of it) to gay marriage (he was not in favor). “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,” he wrote. “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.” Among his op-ed-style entries was a post on his belief that the sex offender registry should be eliminated.