Reward increased to $65,000 for arrest in Austin package explosions

By Sophia Beausoleil - Reporter

AUSTIN, Texas - In a news conference Tuesday, the Austin Police Department announced it’s offering a $50,000 reward for any information that can help them arrest the person or persons responsible for a series of deadly bombings in Austin.

The reward is in addition to the $15,000 that Governor Greg Abbott announced Monday.

Austin Police Chief Brian Manley said the first attack Monday killed 17-year-old Draylen Mason and injured his mother, who is in stable condition.

“From everything I've heard about Draylen, he was an outstanding young man,” Manley said.

People who knew the teen said he was smart, talented and an excellent bass player. Mason had recently been accepted to the Butler School of Music at the University of Texas.

“There’s not much you can say. Here was a young brilliant young man, trying, doing everything he could in the most positive way,” said William Dick, conductor of the Austin Youth Orchestra.

WATCH: Reward increased for arrest in Austin package explosions presser

He said the teen played bass for the Austin Youth Orchestra and attended East Austin College Prep. The 17-year-old also played for the charter school’s orchestra, the Austin Soundwaves.

Dick said the teen had been accepted to Interlochen Center for the Arts summer program in Michigan, a prestigious music program for talented youth interested in becoming professional musicians.

The teen was a senior and had won many awards -- not only for music, but scholastically.

"He was going to graduate this year and they just took his life like that,” said De’Montrey McKenzie, a classmate of Mason. “He was just very passionate and he just loved to play music in orchestra and in band. I've watched him practice and he just gave everything his all.”

When the explosions happened

Austin police said the three explosions that have taken place within the past two weeks are connected.

The first explosion happened at 6:55 a.m. March 2 at 1112 Haverford Drive.

A package was left in north Austin on the front porch at the home of Anthony Stephan House, 39, where it detonated, killing House.

Manley explained initially police thought it was an isolated incident that was connected to a raid they made in the neighborhood earlier that week.

Anthony Stephan House

“We believed this had been a retaliatory act on that house and simply got the wrong house. That was our initial theory,” Manley explained.

He said House’s home had similar cars and looked like the house police raided, which is why they thought it was someone targeting the wrong home.

The second explosion took place around 6:44 a.m. Monday.

The 17-year-old Mason picked up the package outside his home at 4806 Oldfort Hill Drive and brought it into the kitchen. The package exploded, killing the teen and severely injuring a woman in her 40s who was inside the home.

Police said the third explosion took place Monday about five hours after the one on Oldfort Hill Drive.

Authorities said a 75-year-old woman picked up a package she found outside her home around 11:50 a.m. It exploded and she was severely injured.

Interim Austin police Chief Brian Manley said the victims in the first two explosions were black and the third explosion’s victim was Hispanic. Authorities don’t know the motive for the three bombings, but aren't ruling out race as a factor.

“We are just not going to ignore the fact that three victims that were targeted specifically, that we know of, were people of color. We cannot ignore that. This is something we have to pay attention to,” said Manley during the news conference. “That does not indicate it’s a hate crime, but we are not going to rule that out.”

He also said they’re not going to rule out terrorism.

Investigators from the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives, along with the FBI and Austin police, have been working around the clock at both crime scenes.

Be vigilant

There have not been any other type of package attacks, but police are still asking residents across Austin to be on the lookout and not open any unexpected or unmarked packages. If people see something suspicious, they should call 911.

Manley said that, as of Tuesday morning, the police department received about 150 calls to check suspicious packages.

He said the packages found outside the homes in the explosion Monday were not delivered by the U.S. Postal Service, UPS or FedEx.

Manley also said the packages were cardboard boxes placed on people’s doorsteps and didn’t have standard shipping labels. He wouldn’t go into detail as to the writing on the boxes.

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