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Tuesday, April 16, 2024

US’s Response to Austin “Serial Bomber” highlights double standards  

News Analysis |

A suspect in a wave of bombing attacks in Austin killed himself inside his car with an explosive device early Wednesday as authorities closed in, police said. However the official and media response to the bombing wave has caused a public outcry.

In the past 24 to 36 hours, law enforcement received information directing them to a person of interest, who ultimately became a suspect. Surveillance teams tracked the suspects’ vehicle to a hotel in Round Rock, north of Austin. As police waited on tactical units, the vehicle left the hotel. SWAT approached the vehicle and the suspect detonated a bomb, injuring a SWAT member and killing himself. The suspect is a 24-year-old white male. It’s unclear whether he acted alone.

Four explosions in Austin, Texas, that have killed two people and injured multiple others since March 2 have the city on edge and police warning of a “serial bomber.” A fifth explosion occurred on Tuesday shortly after midnight when a package believed to be bound for Austin exploded at a FedEx facility northeast of San Antonio.

Authorities also intercepted a sixth package containing an explosive device at a different FedEx facility in Austin, according to the FBI. Federal officials confirmed that the two packages at the FedEx facilities are linked to the four Austin explosions.

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A recent blast occurred on Sunday evening in a residential neighborhood in the southwest part of the city. The bomb was on the side of the road and may have been triggered by a tripwire. Two men walking near a fence when they inadvertently set off the bomb were injured. In response, the Austin Independent School District kept school buses out of the neighborhood and police warned residents to act with caution.

Officials told media that the package that exploded early Tuesday was medium-sized and contained metal shrapnel and nails. It was headed to Austin when it exploded on a conveyor track. Officials said FedEx was not the target. A worker standing near the explosion complained of ringing in her ears and was treated and released.

Austin police received a call about a suspicious package at separate FedEx facility in Austin on Tuesday morning. It contained an unexploded device, which was “disrupted” by law enforcement, according to an FBI news release. No injuries were reported.

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It is not clear where in Austin Tuesday’s package was headed.

Another explosion was reported in Austin near a Goodwill store on Tuesday night, putting the city once again on high alert. But Austin police quickly said the incident did not appear to be connected to the bombings, and that a box donated to Goodwill contained “artillery simulators”— a kind of military memento, according to the Austin American-Statesman — that ignited in an employees’ hand. (The individual was taken to the hospital, where he was treated and released.) It is not known who donated the items containing the device.

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Many pointed to the vast difference in coverage given by the media and the US government to a Muslim bomber and a non-Muslim bomber. The fact is apparent that in cases of a Muslim suspect, the incident is immediately framed as an “act of terror” but in cases of Non-Muslim perpetrators, largely neutral terms such as gunman or bomber are used. This whole media framing helps in setting a narrative that violence by Muslims is worse than the same type of violence by Non-Muslims.

President Donald Trump has also been slammed for his lack of urgency in addressing the bombings that have killed two. It took 3 weeks, and 2 American deaths, for Trump to speak out about Austin. The timing of the president’s statement, and what it leaves out, could raise the questions about whose lives matter.

Many point out to the identities of the victims and the alleged identity of the perpetrators as the reason behind Trump’s lackluster response. Most of the victims are people of color while the perpetrators are alleged to be White supremacists that form a large portion of Trump’s voter base.