By Manny Fernandez and Caitlin Dickerson, The New York Times
A fifth explosion, possibly linked to a series of bombings in Austin, prompted investigators to descend Tuesday on a FedEx shipping facility near San Antonio, where officials said the individual who sent the latest parcel bomb had also shipped another “suspicious” package.
Both the parcel that blew up overnight at the FedEx center in Schertz, Tex., and the suspicious parcel were sent from the Austin area and were addressed for delivery in Austin, authorities said.
The package that blew up shortly after midnight Tuesday was the latest in a string of explosions that have unnerved the Texas capital region since early March, killing two people and injuring four others.
(A package bomb apparently bound for Austin exploded at a FedEx distribution center in Schertz, Texas, early Tuesday, hurting one person. Schertz Police Chief Michael Hansen said the package was moving along an automated conveyor when it exploded. An FBI agent told CBS News “it’s more than possible” the package is related to explosions that have occurred in Austin in recent days. Courtesy of CBS News and YouTube. Posted on Mar 20, 2018)
The latest packages were sent from the FedEx facility in Sunset Valley, a small independent city within Austin, a city official confirmed.
The suspicious second package was turned over to law enforcement officials; it was not clear whether it contained explosives.
“FedEx has confirmed that a package detonated at a San Antonio FedEx Ground facility early this morning,” the company said in a statement.
“We have also confirmed that the individual responsible also shipped a second package that has now been secured and turned over to law enforcement.”
“We have provided law enforcement responsible for this investigation extensive evidence related to these packages, and the individual that shipped them, collected from our advanced technology security systems,” the statement added.
(A second bomb has been found at the Texas FedEx distribution facility, following a package explosion just after midnight on Tuesday in Schertz, Texas. The bombs are likely connected to the four recent package bombs in Austin, federal agents say. Courtesy of TIME and YouTube. Posted on Mar 20, 2018)
The police called in a bomb squad early Tuesday to investigate the suspicious package, found at a FedEx center near Austin-Bergstrom International Airport, about 11 miles southeast of downtown.
The facility was sealed off as police and federal agents hunted for clues.
What to know about the Austin package bombings so far https://t.co/m0UGlFNxWk
— TIME (@TIME) March 20, 2018
The authorities now believe that someone went to the Sunset Valley FedEx location, “mailed a couple packages at least, and they were routed through Schertz back to a FedEx distribution facility near the airport,” said a Sunset Valley city official, speaking on condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to discuss the investigation.
One of them exploded in Schertz, and as for the other, he said, “All they are saying now is that it is a suspicious package.”
It was not clear whether any more packages were sent by the same person or people, according to the official.
While local, state and federal investigators have been tight-lipped about the details of the case, bomb experts and federal agents described the cat-and-mouse game that was probably playing out in Central Texas, where the explosives have been found.
More than 500 police and law enforcement agents are working on the case, which Representative Michael McCaul said on Tuesday was “probably the biggest investigation since the Boston bombings.”
In a meeting with President Trump in Washington, Mr. McCaul, a Texas Republican, said evidence concerning the latest packages could prove important to the investigation.
He said he hoped that with the help of fingerprints and surveillance photos, “we can finally take him down,” adding, “This is terrorizing the city of Austin right now.”
Federal agents have asked the public to contact the authorities with tips about who or what could be behind the wave of attacks.
“The public’s safety is our No. 1 priority, and we are providing all the resources we can to finally find the persons or individual responsible for this,” Frank Ortega, assistant special agent in charge of the federal Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives in San Antonio, told reporters near the scene of the latest explosion, in Schertz.
The blast occurred about 12:30 a.m. local time when a package traveling along an automated conveyor belt exploded, according to Chief Michael Hansen of the Schertz Police.
(Box was on a conveyor belt when it exploded. This marks the fifth explosion in Texas, the first four causing injuries and death in the city of Austin. FBI agent who caught the Unabomber provides insight into the investigation and manhunt. Courtesy of Fox News and YouTube. Posted on Mar 20, 2018)
An employee who had been standing nearby later complained of ringing in the ears and was treated at the scene. “We were very fortunate that there were no injuries,” Chief Hansen said.
The large warehouse-type shipping facility, located in a commercial-industrial center about 25 miles northeast of San Antonio, was evacuated as local and federal agents flooded in, combing the building for clues.
Helen Lafitte, the Schertz Police public information officer, said that nearby streets had been closed, with only vehicles connected to nearby businesses permitted to enter.
Few details have been released about the devices that have exploded so far.
James Smith, assistant special agent in charge of the F.B.I. in San Antonio, refused to confirm local media reports that the package at the FedEx facility contained nails and other shrapnel.
Mr. Smith also said the authorities had not determined yet whether the latest explosion was connected to the earlier explosions in Austin: “We do not know at this point right now.”
He said agents were searching other packages at the FedEx facility to make sure none are hazardous.
The four bombings in Austin — the first on March 2, the most recent on Sunday — have killed two people and injured several others.
(Two fatal package explosions at homes in Austin, Texas this month are believed to be linked, Austin police chief Brian Manley said Monday. Courtesy of CBS News and YouTube. Posted on Mar 12, 2018)
Those explosives were left in locations where people were likely to accidentally detonate them; none were delivered by a commercial service like FedEx.
“We have a high degree of confidence that the same individual built all these devices,” Fred Milanowski, special agent in charge of the A.T.F. office in Houston, told reporters on Monday, referring to the four bombs in Austin.
Before the explosion on Tuesday, the bombs had seemed to be growing more sophisticated.
The first three were simple package bombs, but the fourth, which detonated Sunday evening and injured two people, was triggered by a tripwire.