Package Bound for Austin Explodes At FedEx Facility

Mar 20, 2018

Update 3/23

A string of bombings in Austin this month have the city on edge. Two people have been killed and four others hurt.

The Austin Police Department, along with state and federal agencies, are racing to figure out who’s behind the bombings. And the radius of their investigation grew Tuesday, after a package exploded at a FedEx facility in Schertz, a city of roughly 40,000 that borders San Antonio and is about 60 miles south of Austin.

But that blast was just the beginning.


A Fifth Explosion

Schertz police responded to a call about an explosion at the FedEx distribution facility around 12:25 a.m. Tuesday.

“A package had been traveling down the automated conveyor when it had exploded,” Schertz Police Chief Michael Hansen said.

No one was seriously injured, he added.

“One employee that was standing near the explosion later complained of ringing in the ears,” he said. “She was treated and released.”

Hansen said the FBI, the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives, and the San Antonio Police Department joined Shertz police and fire personnel at the scene.

After the explosion, the roads outside the facility were closed for hours, and employees were turned away when they showed up for work.

James Smith, an assistant special agent in charge with the FBI, declined to comment about the specifics of the package.

“We currently can’t go into the details of the package, it’s still under investigation,” he said.

In a statement, FedEx said it was providing authorities with extensive evidence about the package and the individual that shipped it.

At a separate news conference, San Antonio police mistakenly said there was a second package found at the Schertz facility.

In a statement later issued from SAPD:

Chief McManus misspoke earlier at this morning’s press conference. There is no secondary device at the Schertz facility. Any further inquiries should be addressed to the Austin Police Department and the FBI.

At the same time, federal authorities and police in Austin were responding to another suspicious package.

Suspicious Package In Austin

In Austin, police arrived at the FedEx Ground distribution facility near the Austin–Bergstrom International Airport around 6 a.m.

They called in the bomb squad, and federal law enforcement were also there.

“Due to the nature of this incident and past events, we have all of them on scene as a precautionary measure to ensure the community’s safety,” Austin interim Police Chief Brian Manley said.

Manley didn’t offer specifics about what they found at the FedEx facility, while Austin Police Department spokeswoman Destiny Winston could only urge the community to be vigilant.

“If you didn’t order something. If you are not expecting a package. If it’s something that does not have an official label on it. Or really, ... if there is anything out of the ordinary, we are asking the community to please call 911, let our officers come out, let us handle it,” she said.

A short time later, the FBI confirmed that there were, in fact, two suspicious packages found in FedEx facilities. The first was the one that exploded in Schertz. The second was found at the facility in Austin

FedEx confirms both packages were shipped from the same FedEx store in Sunset Valley in South Austin.

 

Investigation Continues

Sunset Valley Police provided security for the FBI as it investigated a FedEx Office location. Police had taped off sections of the parking lot around the storefront on Brodie Lane.

About eight FBI agents filtered in and out of the store. Investigators also combed the strip mall, asking for surveillance footage from surrounding businesses.

“There’s no reason for us to believe anybody’s in danger in this area at all,” Lieutenant Rich Andreucciis said. “The other stores surrounding Fedex are open.”

Cheyanne Huntsman, who works at the Austin Poke restaurant next door to the FedEx, said she arrived at work around 10 a.m. and was met at the door by investigators.

“Pulling up for your job, and that’s the first thing you see is FBI, so yeah, a little scary,” she said.

Eventually, an FBI agent came by and cleared Huntsman and her coworkers to open the restaurant.

The FBI later confirmed the two packages "are connected to the four previous package explosions that occurred between March 2 and March 18, 2018 in Austin, Texas."

Authorities continue to ask residents to report any suspicious items they come across.

Joey Palacios, Jimmy Maas and Syeda Hasan contributed to this story, which was produced as part of the Texas Station Collaborative, an initiative that connects the newsrooms of Texas' four largest public radio stations: KERA in North Texas, KUT in Austin, Texas Public Radio in San Antonio and Houston Public Media.

NOTE: According to a freedom of information request, the San Antonio Police Department responded to 17 suspicious package calls between March 13 and March 20.