The Austin bombing suspect recorded a lengthy video confession, police said on Wednesday evening.
Brian Manley, the interim Austin police chief, said in a news conference that before Mark Conditt died after setting off an explosion in his car as officers closed in on him, he made a 25-minute video, found on his phone this morning, in which he describes the differences between the explosive devices in detail.
“I would classify this as a confession,” Manley said. As to a motive, he added, “We are never going to able to put a [rationale] behind these acts.”
However, Manley said, “He does not at all mention anything about terrorism nor does he mention anything about hate. 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.”
Manley said police had no plans to release the video, which they believe was made between 9pm and 11pm on Tuesday, a couple of hours before the suspect’s death. He indicated the video suggested Conditt planned to commit more crimes, but Manley declined to elaborate.
During a 19-day spell, police believe Conditt was responsible for five explosions that killed two people and injured five more. Another device, a package bomb found in a mail facility near the Texan capital’s international airport, did not detonate.
The sixth explosion was fatal, too, but this time it was the suspect who paid the price. Police said that as a Swat team closed in on 23-year-old Conditt in the dark in the suburb of Round Rock, he drove his SUV into a ditch and detonated a device inside his vehicle.
That the man is suspected of waging a serial bombing campaign using devices left on doorsteps, shipped via FedEx or placed in a quiet residential street with a tripwire appeared to come as a complete shock to those who knew him best.
His family issued a statement on Wednesday saying they had “no idea of the darkness that Mark must have been in”. A police officer guarded his parents’ well-kept home in the Austin suburb of Pflugerville, where the annual German festival Deutsche Pfest is the main source of excitement.
Without giving his name, the officer said other family members were not suspects and a search of the property had not turned up anything suspicious.
As the string of package bombs exploded so destructively throughout March, the suspect drew comparisons to Ted Kaczynski, the domestic terrorist known as the Unabomber, who is serving life without parole at the supermax prison in Florence, Colorado, for a string of bombings between 1978 to 1995 that spanned the US.
Kaczynski was a Harvard-educated mathematics prodigy who spread his attacks so sparsely, killing three and injuring many others, and laid so low that it took years for him to be captured. Conditt was a home-schooled college drop-out whose attacks were so frequent that in a matter of days law enforcement tracked him down and he appeared to choose death before capture.
Taking a walk through Pflugerville, another Austin suburb, on Wednesday morning, in the neighbourhood where the suspect’s parents live, resident Beverly Canales was struck by the dramatic sight of law enforcement and media vehicles crammed along the narrow, quiet street.
The 56-year-old, whose husband works for the county sheriff’s department, said the suburb still had a charming, small-town feel, despite a population surge in the past two decades.
Now it has a less appealing claim to fame than its annual festival.
“Our little town of Pflugerville has our own Unabomber,” she said.
Conditt lived with a couple of housemates at a modest place about half a mile from his parents.
Six years ago he claimed not to possess intense political opinions. “I enjoy cycling, parkour, tennis, reading, and listening to music. I am not that politically inclined. I view myself as a conservative, but I don’t think I have enough information to defend my stance as well as it should be defended,” he wrote on a blog.
“The reasons I am taking [a politics class at Austin community college] is because I want to understand the US government, and I hope that it will help me clarify my stance, and then defend it.”
He did, though, express strong anti-abortion and anti-homosexuality views: “Homosexuality is not natural. Just look at the male and female bodies. They are obviously designed to couple,” he wrote.
“In addition, political protection of a sexual practice is ludicrous. I do not believe it is proper to pass laws stating that homosexuals have ‘rights.’”
He expressed firm views on law and order in a blog post in 2012, saying he supported the death penalty because “living criminals harm and murder, again – executed ones do not”.
Despite stark language, such right-wing stances on hot-topic issues are far from unusual in suburban Texas, even in a place like Austin known as a liberal and cultural anomaly in the Republican state.
A recruiting website listed his profession as “purchasing agent/buyer/shipping and receiving”, while his parents, Pat and Danene, appear to run a business consultancy from their home. Said to have been unemployed at the time of his crimes, Conditt had also worked as a computer repair technician and at a semiconductor manufacturing company. Those roles hint at the sort of technical proficiency necessary to construct and safely transport explosive devices, which the authorities described as sophisticated.
“When I met Mark, he was really rough around the edges,” a friend who knew him well several years ago, Jeremiah Jensen, told the Austin American-Statesman. “He was a very assertive person and would … end up being kind of dominant and intimidating in conversation. A lot of people didn’t understand him and where he was coming from.”
Jensen told the newspaper Conditt – like other family members – was religious. “I know faith was a serious thing for him,” he said. “I don’t know if he held onto his faith or not. The kind of anger that he expressed and the kind of hate that he succumbed to – that’s not what he believed in in high school. I don’t know what happened along the way. This wasn’t him.”
Yet it was Conditt who shopped for bomb materials at Home Depot, state lawmaker Michael McCaul told the KXAN local TV news.
And it was Conditt who walked into a FedEx store in Austin and was caught on camera sporting a blond wig, hat and gloves, according to ABC News. The name he used to ship two package bombs? Kelly Killmore. Manley declined to confirm the veracity of the report on Wednesday evening.