PFLUGERVILLE, Texas – A serial bomber whose family describes him as shrouded in mysterious “darkness” left a 25-minute video confession on his cellphone, claiming responsibility for murder and creating widespread panic.
Austin Police Chief Bryan Manley said law enforcement recovered the confession made by Mark Anthony Conditt while scouring through his possessions. Conditt, a 23-year-old unemployed college dropout, blew himself up early Wednesday as a SWAT team closed in.
Manley said Conditt recorded himself confessing to the bombings, taking time to describe the different explosives he used in elaborate detail. The chief said the recording represents “the outcry of a very challenged young man.”
All seven devices that Conditt described in the recording, including the bomb he used to kill himself, have been recovered by law enforcement. But authorities are still urging caution.
“He does not at all mention anything about terrorism, nor does he mention anything about hate,” said Manley, who noted that the recording was made on Tuesday night between 9 and 11 p.m., when Conditt felt “like we were getting very close to him.”
“Sometimes we can’t assign a reason to irrational acts,” he said. “This is a very troubled young man who was talking about challenges in his life that led him to the point in his life that led him to take the actions that he took.”
The recording did not reveal why Conditt targeted the addresses he did.
The revelation about the confession comes after police searched Conditt’s home and found a trove of bomb materials that so alarmed them that they evacuated a four-block area to avoid more death or injury.
Conditt died in a ditch near Round Rock after detonating a bomb as two SWAT team members advanced on his vehicle.
Authorities have not given any indication of an obvious motive for the attacks. They were also unsure whether Conditt acted alone in making and delivering the five bombs in the Texas capital and suburban San Antonio that killed two people and wounded four others since March 2.
Christopher Combs, special agent in charge of the FBI’s San Antonio office, said “a considerable amount” of bomb-making apparatus was found in one room in the suspect’s house. No fully made explosive devices were found.
Asked if the threat to public safety has lifted, Combs replied, “Stay vigilant.”
Combs said the law enforcement partnerships present on the ground in Austin helped them stop the suspect as early as they did.
“If we had not found this man, I think we all believe fairly certainly that there would have been more devices and more innocent civilians would have been hurt and would have been killed,” he said.
Combs said he watched video footage of the police chase early Wednesday, when officers were trailing the suspect.
“You literally had Austin police officers running towards a vehicle that had an explosive device in it that detonated,” he said. “That is unbelievable courage. Those are heroes.”
Some of Conditt’s family members issued a statement.
“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,” the family 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.”
Travis County District Attorney Margaret Moore said officials were prepared to charge the person behind the Austin bombings with capital murder and seek the death penalty.
“You can never call this a happy ending, but it’s a damn good one,” she said.
Federal agents who descended on Conditt’s frame house in Pflugerville detained two of his roommates before letting one go.
Inside, according to a statement by FBI, Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives and the Austin Police, they found the cache of bomb materials before they cleared an area around the house “in an abundance of caution.”
Authorities also warned residents of the Austin area that Conditt may have also planted or mailed other explosive devices during the last 24 hours.
After zeroing in on Conditt as the prime suspect, police in the pre-dawn hours Wednesday located his vehicle outside a hotel in Round Rock, about 20 miles north of Austin. They moved into the area in force, but awaited the arrival of beefed-up tactical teams in hopes of taking Conditt alive.
Instead, Conditt’s vehicle began to leave the parking lot, with police in pursuit. When the vehicle went into a ditch, Conditt detonated the explosive device inside as two SWAT team members approached.
One officer was knocked back by the explosion, suffering minor injuries, while a second fired on the suspect, who died of “significant injuries” from the blast, said Austin Police Chief Bryan Manley.
A federal arrest warrant filed Tuesday in federal court accused Conditt, who lived near his parents in the community of Pflugerville north of Austin, of “receiving, possessing or transferring a destructive device.” Details of the complaint remained sealed Wednesday.
Surveillance video from a FedEx drop-off location north of San Antonio, where the suspect was allegedly seen entering with a package, captured images of Conditt wearing a blond wig and hat while bringing his packages in for delivery.