“Exotic” batteries ordered online helped lead authorities to the Austin, Texas, bombing suspect before he died early Wednesday as police closed in, multiple senior law enforcement officials told NBC News.
Austin police and federal agents had been working around the clock with 350 agents to track down the bombing suspect.
Police did not name the bomber, but two law enforcement sources familiar with the investigation identified him to NBC News as Mark Anthony Conditt, 23.
The unusual batteries were the signature trait that allowed investigators to so quickly link the various explosives to Conditt, sources said. One senior law enforcement official said the batteries came from Asia.
‘Exotic’ batteries, surveillance video helped lead police to Austin bomber
“These weren’t your store-bought Duracells,” another law enforcement official said.
Conditt, suspected in a spate of bombings that terrorized Austin in the last three weeks, died early Wednesday after detonating an explosive inside his vehicle as a SWAT team tried to apprehend him on the side of a highway, officials said.
Authorities had tracked him to a hotel in Round Rock, a city in the Austin metropolitan area, Austin Police Chief Brian Manley said at a news conference.
Police were able to find Conditt using a variety of tactics, including coming up with a list of phone numbers and individuals that were in the area of the bombings when they occurred, using cell-site analysis and high-tech computing systems that can find patterns of callers in certain areas.
Hours before police tried to pull Conditt, he turned on his cellphone, which allowed authorities to track his location. Surveillance footage taken at an Austin FedEx was also used.
Images show Austin bomber dropping off packages
Authorities shared the surveillance footage showing a man believed to be Conditt entering a FedEx facility wearing what appeared to be a blonde wig and dropping off a package.
Early Wednesday, police were following Conditt’s car on Interstate 35 when he pulled over and “detonated a bomb inside the vehicle, knocking one of our SWAT officers back,” Manley said.
Another member of the SWAT team fired at the vehicle, Manley said.
“The suspect is deceased and has significant injuries from a blast that occurred from detonating a bomb inside his vehicle,” he said, adding that the officer who was knocked back sustained minor injuries.
The incident happened at around 2 a.m. local time (3 a.m. ET), according to NBC affiliate KXAN.
A 2012 blog, which appears to be part of a government class project at Austin Community College, lists the writer as Mark Conditt of Pflugerville, Texas. Conditt is believed to have been a resident of Pflugerville, north of Austin.
NBC News could not immediately confirm if the blog was written by the suspect, but public records show only one Mark Conditt in Pflugerville. Austin Community College confirmed that a “Mark Anthony Conditt,” born in June 1994, was a student from 2010-12, but did not graduate. The college added that it is “working with Austin Police Department to provide any information they need.”
The blog espouses some political beliefs, including entries describing why the author believes gay marriage should not be legalized and why the United States should do away with sex offender registration.
“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,” a description of the writer reads. “The reasons I am taking this class is because I want to understand the US government, and I hope that it will help me clarify my stance, and then defend it.”
Jeff Reeb, a neighbor of the Conditt family, said that Mark was “a very normal kid” and that the family is “extremely nice.”
“I can’t imagine what any of them are going through … just really nice, calm family, if you can say it that way,” Reeb said.
Shortly after the announcement that the suspect had been killed, President Donald Trump congratulated law enforcement personnel.
AUSTIN BOMBING SUSPECT IS DEAD. Great job by law enforcement and all concerned!— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) March 21, 2018
Austin Mayor Steve Adler echoed the praise on “Today”: “As a community, we’re just really relieved and just incredibly thankful for this army of law enforcement that has been in our community for the last week or so.”
Even though the suspect was dead, officials warned locals to keep on the lookout for other possible explosives.
“This is the culmination of three very long weeks for our community,” Manley said. “We still need to remain vigilant to ensure no other packages or devices have been left in the community.”
ATF Special Agent in Charge Fred Milanowski told reporters that officials were “concerned that there may still be other devices out there.”
Austin bomb suspect ‘detonated bomb inside vehicle,’ police chief says
Austin has been on edge after four attacks using package or other bombs across the city this month left two dead and several injured.
The most recent occurred Sunday when two people were injured by a device believed to have used a tripwire. The first attack on March 2 killed Stephan House, 39. Ten days later, Draylen Mason, 17, was killed in an explosion that also critically injured his mother. And a separate attack that day critically injured a 75-year-old Hispanic woman.
Authorities on Sunday warned that the devices appeared to be getting more sophisticated and asked residents of one neighborhood to stay indoors Monday.
“We are clearly dealing with a serial bomber,” Manley said Monday. “We will have to determine if we see a specific ideology behind this.”
Andrew Blankstein reported from New York, and Alexander Smith from London.