Wednesday, March 21, 10:24 a.m. EDT

Early this morning (March 21), the man suspected of creating deadly bombs that injured and killed people in Black and Latinx neighborhoods in Austin, Texas, killed himself with an explosive device as Austin Police Department SWAT officers approached his car. The man, Mark Anthony Conditt of Pflugerville, Texas, was White. Many called on law enforcement officers to investigate the bombings as hate crimes.

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More than two weeks after the first of five bombs that killed two Austin-area residents and injured several others, Black elected officials are urging law enforcement and Congress to label the crimes “ongoing terrorist attacks.” 

In a joint statement released yesterday (March 19), three members of the Congressional Black Caucus (CBC) called for an investigation to determine if the bombings were “ideologically or racially motivated.” They also said that the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) should brief Congress about the bombings.

Representatives Bennie Thompson (D-Miss.), Cedric Richmond (D-La.) and Sheila Jackson Lee (D-N.Y.), members of the House Committee on Homeland Security and House Judiciary Committee, wrote in their statement:

To be clear, these bombings must be classified as ongoing terrorist attacks and should be investigated as such. Also, we need to understand if these attacks are ideologically or racially motivated. The community impacted is now under virtual house arrest and the entire city is posed to be in a state of fear—which can easily transition into panic. We cannot stand idly by while our communities are under attack. This has become a national security issue and the full investigative force of the federal government must be focused on stopping these attacks.

On March 2, Anthony Stephan House, a Black 29-year-old, was killed when a parcel left outside his home in Austin exploded. Ten days later, Draylen Mason, a 17-year-old Black boy, was killed and his mother was critically injured under similar circumstances. That same day, an unnamed 75-year-old Latinx woman was injured when a package exploded at her residence. Sunday (March 18), two White men were injured by a device that was detonated when they were walking down an Austin street. And early Tuesday morning (March 20), a fifth package bomb, which contained shrapnel like the others, exploded at a FedEx facility in the town of Schertz, approximately 65 miles south of Austin. One person was injured. A second, undetonated, device was also found at the FedEx facility. Law enformcent officials say it could be a critical clue, as undetonated devices can provide more evidence than those that have exploded.

From The New York Times: “Before Tuesday’s explosion, the attacks had seemed to grow more sophisticated. The first three attacks featured simple package bombs while the fourth, which occurred Sunday evening and injured two people, was triggered by a tripwire. If the explosion on Tuesday is linked to the others, it will represent yet another shift in tactics for a serial bomber whose methods and versatility have baffled investigators.”

The Patriot Act defines domestic terrorism—which the CBC members invoked in their statement—as an attempt to “intimidate or coerce a civilian population; to influence the policy of a government by intimidation or coercion; or to affect the conduct of a government by mass destruction, assassination or kidnapping.”

In their statement, the CBC members wrote, “For too long we have focused only on certain sources of terrorism and violence while ignoring others.”

James Alex Fields, who intentionally drove his car into a crowd of people protesting against a White supremacist rally in Charlottesville, Virginia, in August 2017, was charged with murder, not terrorism. Dylann Roof, who killed nine Black worshippers at Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church in Charleston, South Carolina, in 2015 was also charged with murder, but not terrorism. Similary, the “Unibomber” Timonthy McVeigh, who killed 168 people in a bombing in 1995 Oklahoma City was found guilty of murder, but was not charged with terrorism.