Two men are hospitalized but are expected to survive after they were wounded by a package bomb in Austin Sunday night, the fourth package bomb to explode in the city this month, News Radio 1200 WOAI reports.
"This was a bomb that exploded, but we are not believing that this is similar to the previous ones, as in packages left on doorsteps," Austin Police Chief Brian Manley told a 1:30 AM news briefing today. "In this case, it was a suspicious package that was left by the side of the road."
Manley says unlike the three previous package bombs in Austin, which killed two people and wounded two others, this package bomb was not ignited when a person opened the package. He says this may have been a trip wire that triggered the explosion as the two victims were either bicycling or pushing their bikes down Dawn Song Drive in upscale southwest Austin. He said it also may have been detonated by somebody kicking or stepping on the package.
"Our safety message to this point has involved the handling of packages and telling this community, do not handle packages, do not pick up package, do not disturb packages," Manley said. "Now we must expand that level of vigilance, and pay attention to any suspicious device, whether it be a bag, a package, or a backpack."
The entire area was sealed off last night while the investigation was underway, but it was re-opened this morning.
Police and federal investigators remain on the scene now, and will continue their investigation after sunrise.
The three previous explosions were all in east Austin, several miles from the scene of the Sunday night explosion. The latest blast was in southwest Austin. Manley says it is too early to tell if the latest explosion is related to the other three.
"This changes things," he said.
Officials had come up with a tentative connection between the victims, or potential intended victims, of the previous three bombings as being people who were active in African American churches in Austin.
The Sunday night explosion comes just hours after police had increased the reward for the arrest of the person responsible for the three bombings to $115,000. Manley said the three previous explosions were 'clearly intended to send a message,' although he didn't say what he believes that message is. Manley said Austin officials have received more than 7800 calls to 9-1-1 since two explosions rocked the city on Monday from people reporting suspicious packages.
Police said a bomb threat that forced the cancellation of a concert at the South by Southwest festival over the weekend was not connected to the four package bombings.
PHOTO; AUSTIN PD