When a 23-year-old man unleashed a wave of deadly bombings this month in Austin, Texas, interim police Chief Brian Manley did not characterize the acts as terrorism. Until now.
“I actually agree now that he was a domestic terrorist for what he did to us,” Manley told a panel discussion hosted Thursday by KUT-FM, Austin’s National Public Radio station.
“This is a distinction I wanted to make today,” Manley told the panel.
Manley has said that he didn’t want to apply a legal definition to a crime that was still under investigation.
“I was so focused that we put a stop to it,” he said of the bombings that terrorized the Texas capital for nearly three weeks.
The series of bombs planted by Mark Anthony Conditt led to the deaths of two African-Americans and injured several others, including a Latina, raising fears of possible hate crimes.
“I’ve now had the opportunity to sit back and understand and absorb all of the impacts that it had on a personal level and … I’m very comfortable saying that to our community and what he did to us, he was a domestic terrorist,” Manley said.
While the chief talked about the bomber’s impact on the community, he did not single out the effect of the attacks on blacks or Latinos.
After the bomber killed himself with explosives March 21 as police approached him, Manley told reporters that a 25-minute confession video found later on his cell phone didn’t shed light on his motive.
“He does not at all mention anything about terrorism, nor does he mention anything about hate,” Manley said last week. “But, instead, it is the outcry of a very challenged young man talking about challenges in his personal life that led him to this point.”
That characterization of Conditt’s actions as the work of a troubled young man angered many, who said violent acts by people of color are treated as terrorism, while those perpetrated by whites are downplayed as a byproduct of troubled minds.
Activist Chas Moore, executive director of the Austin Justice Coalition, said Thursday that Conditt’s race factored in how law enforcement perceived him, according to KUT.
“Because he was white, we gave him the benefit of being a human being,” Moore said.
Moore called the idea of Austin as a tolerant and progressive city — “a big, beautiful diverse pie” — a “myth.”