The details are among those to emerge about bombing suspect, Mark Anthony Conditt after he blew himself up as police tried to arrest him on Wednesday over a string of deadly package bombs that have terrorized Austin for weeks.
Conditt, an unemployed college dropout who bought some of his bomb-making materials at Home Depot and others from China, had recorded a 25-minute confession video on his cellphone hours before he died after detonating one of his own devices.
Police are still trying to piece together why the out of work computer repair man chose to build and send out explosive devices which left two dead and injured five others.
Austin police said the phone recording offered a key insight into why the suspect embarked on the killing spree.
Cassia Schultz, a childhood friend who was in the same RIOT group as the bomber, told BuzzFeed that Conditt would regularly attend the group with one of his younger sisters.
‘A lot of us were very into science; we would discuss chemicals and how to mix them and which ones were dangerous,’ Schultz, now 21, said.
‘We were into weapons and stuff. A lot of us did role-playing, and (role-playing games); we’d have foam weapons and act out a battle.’
Schultz, who described Conditt as a ‘normal kid’, said she couldn’t recall bombs or bomb making ever being discussed at the RIOT groups. She added that other members of their group were shocked to hear Conditt was behind the deadly Austin bombings.
While some who were in the same conservative survivalist circles as Conditt in high school, described him as normal, others recalled that “[Mark] always had deep and interesting insights,” on various subjects.
“He thought really deeply about stuff,” Schultz said.
Another former friend, Jeremiah Jensen, 24, also part of the Pflugerville homeschool community and was close to Conditt in 2012 and 2013, told the statesman that although “faith was a serious thing” for Conditt, “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. He really just wanted to tell the truth. What I remember about him he would push back on you if you said something without thinking about it. He loved to think and argue and turn things over and figure out what was really going on.”
Conditt who regularly attended church services, was raised in a family described by acquaintances as “more conservative, strictly religious”.
When the noose closed around him early Wednesday , with police banging on the windows of his truck, Conditt blew himself up on the edge of Interstate 35, to end 20 days of terror he’d unleashed on Austin with nails, tripwires and packages, all seemingly expertly placed to attack innocent people in their homes
Originally thought to be an older, more sophisticated attacker, the Austin bomber turned out to be an otherwise quiet, introverted 23-year-old from Pflugerville, northeast of Austin, troubled over “personal challenges” that authorities did not specify.
He left a trail of digital breadcrumbs that spelled his demise and brazenly mailed bombs from a FedEx Office in an obvious disguise.
He laid out a confession detailing each bomb in a 25-minute cell phone recording hours before officers closed in, never mentioning terrorism or hate, interim Austin Police Chief Brian Manley said Wednesday. Because the first bombs killed and injured blacks and Hispanics, there had been worries of racial motives.
“We are never going to be able to put a rationale behind these acts,” Manley said. “It is the outcry of a very challenged young man.”
Conditt’s death brought some relief, as investigators said the seven bombs detailed on the recording have all been accounted for. Manley said he is fairly confident there are no more, but said the public should remain vigilant, as Conditt indicated he intended to do more harm.
Questions remained: What did those closest to him know? What personal struggles turned a quiet, introverted kid from the suburbs into a killer? And for the wounded families and rattled city he left behind, how would they heal?
Mark Conditt’s family on Wednesday released a statement to “ to express their condolences to the families of those who have been affected”. Austin Police said they had no information that would lead them “to believe the family had any knowledge of this.”
Authorities also announced that the dead suspect left a ‘Confession’ Recording. Investigators discovered the 25-minute recording on a cellphone found with bombing suspect Mark Conditt after his death. He also had on him a target list of future locations to continue his reign of terror, police said.