Austin police chief admits bomber was domestic terrorist

In a radio station forum, Chief Brian Manley finally places Mark Conditt in the category he should be in

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After terrorizing Austin, Tex., residents for nearly 20 days, serial bomber Mark Conditt killed himself inside his car with an explosive device on March 21, 2018.

By that time, Interim Austin Police Chief Brian Manley had been criticized for only referring to the then-unidentified bomber as a “challenged young man,” instead of a domestic terrorist. Having killed two Black people, 39-year-old Stephan House and 17-year-old Draymen Mason, as well as injuring at least five more, the distinction became a rising complaint in laced with racial tensions.

The growing ire was directed to both Manley and mainstream media for a tendency to protect white men as lone wolves rather than call them out as terrorist threats. Many have noted the distinction made between white mass shooters, like Dylann Roof, who are arrested safely as opposed to police who are not prosecuted for shooting unarmed Black men.

On ThursdayKUT-FM reported that Manley’s stance on this has changed. 

In conversation with Austin’s National Public Radio, Manley sat on a panel created to examine and explore the impact of the bombings on communities of color at the George Washington Carver Museum in East Austin.

“Knowing that it might end up in a legal system at some point, I was being very specific on legal definitions that exist under federal law,” Manley continued.

Following the investigation, Manley told KUT-FM panelists, viewers, and listeners that he’s finally had time to focus on the after-effects of both the bomber’s actions and his own.

“I’ve had an opportunity to sit back and reflect on the impact that it had on our community, and not be centered and focused on the investigation and trying to put a stop to it,” he said. “And when I look at what he did to our community, and as your police chief, I actually agree now that he was a domestic terrorist for what he did to us.”

Also on the panel was Chas Moore of the Austin Justice Coalition, but he also made the point that while he agreed with Manley that Conditt was a terrorist, he’s also certain that it was due to his race that caused the hesitation.

“Was the young man troubled? Absolutely,” Moore said. “But he was a troubled young man that turned out to be a domestic terrorist. Because he was white, we gave him the benefit of being a human first.”

Austin has a long and challenging history with unequal treatment towards people of color, reportedly dating back to documented beatings in 1972 by police officers all the way up to 2016’s death by authorities of Black 17-year-old David Joseph.

Activist and panelist Gilbert Rivera cited this history, and explained the trauma that has remained following the death of Conditt.

“[The bombings] brought up everything that is part of our DNA,” said Rivera. 

“To really become an anti-racist city, that’s going to take some really deep soul-searching,” said Moore, “and I don’t know if we’re there yet.” 

Manley also agreed about the implications of the past and noted that he and his department have been working with Moore and the Austin Justice Coalition to implement a de-escalation climate as well as bias awareness to lower the mishaps between authorities and persons of color.