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Families of 2 Austin package bomb victims knew each other

  • Authorities work on the scene of an explosion in Austin on Monday, March 12, 2018. Two package bomb blasts a few miles apart killed a teenager and wounded two women in Austin on Monday, less than two weeks after a similar attack left a man dead in another part of the Texas capital. (Ricardo B. Brazziell/Austin American-Statesman via AP) Ricardo B. Brazziell

  • Authorities investigate an explosion at a home on Galindo Street in Southeast Austin, Texas, on Monday, March 12, 2018. The incident was the second reported explosion on Monday and the third in two weeks. Medics were sent out to the 6700 block of Galindo Street, near Montopolis and East Riverside drives in Southeast Austin at 11:49 a.m., EMS said. (Ricardo B. Brazziell/Austin American-Statesman via AP) RICARDO B. BRAZZIELL

  • Authorities investigate an explosion at a home in Austin, Texas, Monday, March 12, 2018. Investigators believe the fatal explosion on Monday is linked to another deadly bombing elsewhere in the city this month, and they're considering whether race was a factor because all of the victims were black. (Ricardo B. Brazziell/Austin American-Statesman via AP) RICARDO B. BRAZZIELL

  • Authorities are investigating the scene in East Austin, Texas, after a teenager was killed and a woman was injured in the second Austin package explosion in the past two weeks Monday, March 12, 2018. Authorities say a package that exploded inside of an Austin home on Monday is believed to be linked to a deadly package sent to another home in Texas' capital city earlier this month. (Ricardo B. Brazziell/Austin American-Statesman via AP) RICARDO B. BRAZZIELL



Associated Press
Tuesday, March 13, 2018

AUSTIN, Texas — Families of two people killed by package bombs left on their doorsteps in Austin knew each other and were connected through local activism in the black community, a civic leader said Tuesday. But it was not clear how they might be tied to a third household where a package bomb also exploded.

Investigators have said the three blasts that killed two people and wounded two others could have been hate crimes since all the victims were black or Hispanic. But they also said they have not ruled out any possible motive.

Draylen Mason, 17, was killed and his mother wounded when a package bomb was opened Monday in their kitchen. The teen’s grandfather is Norman Mason, a prominent dentist in east Austin. He was friends with Freddie Dixon, stepfather of 39-year-old Anthony House, who died in a similar attack in the city on March 2, said Nelson Linder, president of the Austin chapter of the NAACP.

“I don’t believe in coincidences,” Linder said, explaining that he was concerned by the fact that the families were acquainted.

Still unknown is what connection — if any — the two families had to a third household where another package bomb exploded Monday, wounding a 75-year-old Hispanic woman who remains hospitalized in critical condition but has not yet been identified.

Austin Police Chief Brian Manley said he was aware of the connection but did not know if would affect the case. “Our detectives are currently looking at that to evaluate that lead and to see if it is in fact relevant to what we are investigating,” Manley said.

Business records indicate that Dixon was a leader of Austin’s African American Cultural Heritage District, or “Six Square,” which the city defines as 6 square miles of east Austin that was originally created as the Negro District by the Austin City Council in 1928. He also was a longtime pastor at Wesley United Methodist Church, one of the city’s oldest historically black churches.

Dixon was quoted by the Austin American-Statesman in 2015 lamenting how Austin’s population growth and prosperity were effectively creating economic segregation by raising the cost of living. “Austin is quickly becoming a city of the privileged and the non-privileged,” Dixon told the newspaper. “Is that the kind of Austin we want?”

Linder said Austin’s minority community is on edge following the bombings. “Given the fact these people are people of color, that definitely gets people’s attention,” he said. “They feel vulnerable, and they should based on the nature of the incidents.”

The FBI and other federal officials continue to assist in the investigation. Manley said, “We’re not saying that we believe terrorism or hate is in play, but we absolutely have to consider that because we don’t want to limit what we are investigating, what we are considering and how we are approaching this case.”

Tina Sherrow, a retired agent for the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives, said the materials to build such bombs are commonly available at hardware stores or online, and that police have been mum on details because the perpetrators may be watching media coverage.