Keen professionalism ends 3 weeks of terror in Texas


Before the explosive events of this month, many Americans best knew the city of Austin, Texas, as the Live Music Capital of The World thanks to the 42-year blockbuster PBS show bearing its name. Others recognized Austin as a center of progressive culture in the Deep South or as the fastest growing large city in the nation.

Those perceptions were dramatically stained, however, during the three-week terrorist spree of bombings that began March 2 and likely ended Wednesday.

Throughout that period, the collective nerves of the Austin metro area were tattered. The 950,000 residents of the city were subjected to a series of five bombings, which killed two African-Americans and injured at least five others.

Early Wednesday, authorities surrounded the Pflugerville, Texas, motel of Mark Conditt, prime suspect in the crimes. Conditt blew himself up with a homemade explosive device as an Austin SWAT team approached his sport utility vehicle. Although Conditt died in the explosion, no SWAT or other law-enforcement officer were killed or seriously injured in the climactic end to the 20 days of anguish the city endured.

In the immediate aftermath of this nation’s most recent deadly display of domestic terrorism, city officials and law-enforcement officers in Austin and central Texas deserve a hearty pat on the back for a job well done.

City leaders issued warning after warning urging residents to be highly wary of any package that arrived at their doorstep. Crudely made but highly potent explosive devices stuffed inside packages were delivered to the door- steps of the two fatal victims: Anthony Stephan House, a 43-year-old senior project manager at Texas Quarries; and Draylen Mason, a 17-year-old student and talented bass player. Both were African-Americans. A 75-year-old Hispanic woman was wounded in a similar blast March 12.

PRAISEWORTHY INVESTIGATIVE WORK

Austin police, with the assistance of the FBI and others, made the chilling case their priority No. 1. Their detailed and skilled investigative work enabled them to pinpoint Conditt as the prime suspect from surveillance video at a Home Depot store and Fed Ex center. That ultimately led to the fatal standoff earlier this week that dramatically lowered the level of anguish engulfing the city and region.

Their steadfast professionalism and commitment to end the siege of Austin serves as yet another compelling reminder that despite sharp criticism directed toward the men and women in blue in this country in recent years, the vast majority of law-enforcement officers stand out as proud and committed public servants.

We’re confident that their sense of duty and their pledge to protect will compel them to assiduously continue their investigation into the serial bombings. They and others – up to and including the U.S. Department of Justice – must work to answer several vexing questions that continue to swirl around the city’s three-week-long reign of terror.

Among them: Do any remnants of the suspected bomber’s grisly handiwork still pose a threat? Do any other individuals rise as co-conspirators in the bombings? What were the underlying motivations for carrying out these deadly attacks?

Answers to those and other questions are needed to remove any vestiges of agony in Austin and to bring closure to this case of vital national interest. The case also serves as a reminder that vicious and vile acts of homegrown terror can take many forms and as a warning to federal, state and local authorities to never let down their guard.

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