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Texas bombings suspect killed in police confrontation

AUSTIN (WCBD/KXAN/NBC News) - The suspect in a spate of bombings that terrorized residents of Austin, Texas, died after detonating an explosive inside his vehicle as a SWAT team approached to apprehend him on the side of a highway, officials said.

Austin has been on edge after a series of package or other bombs detonated across the city over the past few weeks.

Early Wednesday, authorities tracked the suspect to a hotel in Round Rock, a city in the Austin metropolitan area, Austin police chief Brian Manley told a news conference early Wednesday.

They tracked his vehicle until it pulled over on Interstate 35 and the suspect "detonated bomb inside the vehicle, knocking one of our SWAT officers back and one of our officers fired on the vehicle as well," Manley said.

At the news conference Wednesday morning, we learned the suspect is identified as a 24-year-old white man.  Authorities aren't revealing the person's name or residence.  The medical examiner will identify the suspect and the next of kin will be notified. 

The investigation is underway to determine whether or not the suspect acted on their own or had an accomplice or accomplices.

It is also believed that the suspect is responsible for all Austin incidents.  

No motive has been uncovered.

Police won't ID who the packages were mailed to but authorities say contact has been made with them.

The police, FBI, and personnel with the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives have been deployed to the section of the interstate where the incident happened, the ATF said in a tweet.

The Austin Police Department described it as an "officer involved shooting" on a section of highway in Round Rock, a city in the Austin metropolitan area.

It happened at around 2 a.m. local time (3 a.m. ET), according to KXAN.

The police investigation means the southbound lane of the highway would be closed for four hours while the northbound lane would remain open, it said.

Michael Luna, a witness staying at the hotel who is ex-military, tells KXAN the blast sounded like two grenades going off. 

RRPD says there is no immediate danger to the public. The Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives, as well as the Federal Bureau of Investigation and the Austin Police Department, are on scene. The Texas Rangers will conduct an investigation into the officer-involved shooting, and the police monitor will be involved as well, Manley confirmed.

He also warned the public that officials do not yet know what the suspect did in the past 24 hours, and they don't know if there are any more devices in the community. Law enforcement officials warn residents in Austin and surrounding communities to be vigilant and report anything suspicious.

"If you see something that looks suspicious, If you see something out of place, If you see something that gives you concern, call 911 and let us know," Manley said.

Another media outlet in Austin received surveillance photos of what appears to be the suspect inside the FedEx shipping store on Brodie Lane. The pictures show a timestamp of March 18, 2018 at 7:37 p.m. The suspect, who has blonde hair, is wearing a baseball cap and can be seen carrying two packages--his hands appear to have gloves on them.

A Month of Terror

A multi-agency investigation that spanned numerous locations and two cities over the span of several weeks led authorities to the suspect in Round Rock.

The first bombing happened on Friday, March 2 at a home located at 1112 Haverford Dr. in northeast Austin. Anthony Stephan House, 39, died when he picked up a package on his front porch. 

The second and third bombing happened 10 days later on Monday, March 12. The first explosion rocked Oldfort Hill Drive in east Austin at 6:44 a.m. Draylen Mason, 17, died at the scene. His mother was taken to the hospital with injuries.

The second explosion that day happened on Galindo Street in southeast Austin. Esperanza Morena Herrera, 75, was critically injured and remains hospitalized.

The fourth bombing happened in southwest Austin in the Travis Country neighborhood on Sunday, March 18 around 8:30 p.m. Two men in their 20s were injured when a tripwire bomb exploded on Dawn Song Drive. This case showed the serial bomber using a different method since the first three cases involved packages left at homes. 

The fifth explosion happened on Tuesday, March 20 in Schertz at a FedEx sorting facility. That explosion led authorities to another suspicious package at the FedEx facility in southeast Austin. Manley said they aren't releasing who those packages were being sent to, but says law enforcement has been in touch with them.On the same day, local and federal authorities confirmed the serial bomber sent two packages from the FedEx shipping store on Brodie Lane.  A local media outlet shared surveillance pictures from that location that appear to depict a white man in a green shirt and baseball cap dropping off packages.

Over the course of the investigation, KXAN discovered investigators visited numerous hardware stores across the city searching for evidence.

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