Mark Anthony Conditt, 23, the suspected bomber who had been terrorizing Austin, Texas for the last two weeks, died Wednesday morning when he apparently triggered a bomb as police approached his vehicle. Police officials report that they discovered a 25-minute confession on Conditt’s cell phone in which he explained how he constructed each of his bombs.
According to police, the still unreleased confession does not include any apparent indication of a motive for the deadly bombing spree, nor did the young man indicate why he chose his targets. He explained that he had constructed seven bombs, including the one which he used on himself.
“Having listened to that recording, he does not at all mention anything about terrorism, nor does he mention anything about hate,” Austin police chief Brian Manley told a news conference Wednesday. “But instead, it is the outcry of a very challenged young man talking about challenges in his personal life that led him to this point.”
Despite preliminary speculation by profilers that the bomber might have had military training, based on the sophistication of the devices, Conditt had no experience in the military.
The string of bombings beginning March 2 had put the entire city of Austin on edge. Police initially indicated that they were considering the possibility the attacks were racially motivated, as the first two victims, 39-year-old Anthony Stephan House and 17-year-old Draylen Mason, were African American. The third bomb severely injured Esperanza Herrera, a 75-year-old Hispanic woman.
However, no discernible pattern emerged, as the next victims were two white men injured in a fourth bombing on Monday after they stepped on a trip wire. Another package exploded in a FedEx processing center southwest of Austin, and a sixth bomb was found before it exploded in a different processing facility.
Security camera video of Conditt mailing the two packages, along with earlier security footage of him purchasing supplies for his bombs at a local hardware store, allowed investigators to identify him as a suspect. Once police had identified his phone number, they began to track his cell phone, allowing them to place him at each bombing site, and descend on his location Wednesday morning.
Texas Republican representative Michael McCaul told Fox News on Thursday that investigators had found a “target list” of other addresses Conditt may have been planning to attack at his home in Pflugerville, Texas, a suburb of Austin. McCaul reported that Conditt had used “exotic batteries” that he ordered online, allowing the investigators to tie the bombs to one person.
Initial reports indicate that Conditt had an unassuming and rather typically American childhood growing up in Pflugerville. He was home-schooled by his conservative Christian parents and graduated from high school in 2013.
“It’s a very good family,” Mark Roessler a neighbor of Conditt’s parents told the Washington Post. “His father was very friendly and very likable. You can tell he was a loving father, just really enjoying spending a lot of time with his son.”
Jeremiah Jensen, who had been home-schooled with him, told the New York Times that he had tried to break through Conidtt’s “hard-to-get-through” exterior. “He could be dominant in conversations,” Jensen said. “It would seem like he was trying to argue with you and give pushback on things you were trying to say. It didn’t have to be serious. He liked to debate.”
While he was being home-schooled Conditt also attended Austin Community College between 2010 and 2012, but left the school in good standing without graduating. On a blog he produced for one of his courses, Conditt described himself as conservative but “not politically inclined.” Conditt used the blog to express his opposition to gay marriage and sex offender lists as well as his support for the death penalty.
Conditt was hired by Crux Manufacturing, a semiconductor parts manufacturer in Pflugerville, in 2014 when he was 19, but was fired last August because he was not meeting job expectations. “He was very quiet and introverted,” the business’ owner told local ABC affiliate KVUE. “He would prioritize things in his own way.”
“Our family is a normal family in every way. We love, we pray, and we try to inspire and serve others,” a statement released by the Conditt family declared. “We had no idea of the darkness Mark must have been in.”
More may come out in the coming days that will shed light on why Conditt did what he did, presuming that he acted alone. The bombing spree, however, is only the latest in a long line of homicidal actions that point to a deep sickness in American society.
Conditt’s spree has a certain resonance with other attacks, including the mass shooting carried out last year in Las Vegas by Stephen Paddock. Paddock rained a hail of bullets down onto a concert from his hotel window, killing 59 and wounding 527 more. The gunman had no discernible motive and did not know any of his victims.
Mass shootings have become an almost weekly event, from domestic murder-suicides to school shootings. Hundreds of thousands of young people and others are expected to participate in demonstrations this weekend to protest school shootings in the wake of the massacre in Parkland, Florida.
Democrats and the media are seeking to limit the protests to the framework of gun control. However, the fact that Conditt used bombs instead of guns discredits the notion that the problem of mass killings can be solved through gun control legislation. Even if guns were restricted, damaged and deranged individuals would find other, perhaps even more deadly ways to act out.
The phenomenon of mass violence is a social problem. A quarter century of war, record social inequality, the daily brutalization of life, the polluted and violent politics that emanate from every pore of the American ruling class and its institutions—such manifestations of social disease find reflection in horrors like the Austin bombings.