As the concerts, film showings and industry talks rolled out at the week-long SXSW Conference & Festivals, bringing record crowds, chaos and traffic to Austin, Texas, the city was dealing with another source of chaos entirely: four explosions that killed two people and injured four others. While these Austin bombings weren’t connected to the festival itself, which ended yesterday, police say the attacks may be racially motivated, as the bombs were placed in East Austin’s predominantly black and Latinx neighborhoods.
The first three bombs (two of which exploded a week before the festival began) were disguised as packages on people’s doorsteps, while a fourth bomb injured two bike riders on Sunday. Police believe this fourth bomb was hidden in a backpack and set off by a tripwire, in a style more sophisticated than the first three bombings.
A March 2 explosion killed Anthony Stephan House, a black 39-year-old construction worker. A second bomb later that day injured Esperanza Herrera, a 75-year-old Latinx woman. The third was detonated on March 12 — the fourth day of the festival — and killed Draylen Mason, a 17-year-old black high school musician. The fourth, which went off yesterday evening, injured two 20-something bike riders. Their identities have not yet been made public.
House’s stepfather was a longtime friend of Mason’s grandfather, leading him and police to question the motive of the bomber or bombers.
The third bombing occurred just as SXSW was winding down the interactive portion of its festival, a gathering dedicated to politics, media and tech innovation, and beginning its music portion. Among this year’s interactive speakers were Chelsea Manning, Moonlight director Barry Jenkins, the gay Prime Minister of Ireland and 2016 presidential candidate Bernie Sanders. In addition to its interactive and music festival, SXSW also hosts a week-long film festival showcasing LGBTQ films.
A possibly unrelated bomb threat on Saturday forced the hip-hop band The Roots to cancel a performance at the SXSW Music festival. Police later arrested 26-year-old Trevor Weldon Ingram for making the threat. Otherwise, police don’t think the bombings are connected in any way to the weeklong SXSW festivities, which brings together more than 100,000 people from around the globe annually.
The Washington Post reports “more than 500 officers have followed up on 435 leads and have conducted 236 interviews” so far in the investigation. Police have also offered $100,000 for information leading to the identification and arrest of the bomber or bombers.
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Featured image by Jay Janner via American-Statesman