The Slatest

Austin Chief Baffled by What Could’ve Motivated White Right-Wing Survivalist Bomber to Kill Two Black People

Austin police chief Brian Manley in Round Rock, Texas on Wednesday.
Austin police chief Brian Manley in Round Rock, Texas on Wednesday.
Scott Olson/Getty Images

Austin police chief Brian Manley told reporters Wednesday that serial bomber Mark Conditt recorded a 25-minute video confession on Tuesday while being pursued by police. (Conditt died before being apprehended when an apparently self-detonated bomb went off in his car.) Manley’s comments about Conditt’s motive were curious:

I know everybody is interested in a motive and understanding why. And we’re never going to be able to put a ration behind these acts. He does not at all mention anything about terrorism nor does he mention anything about hate. 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.

Here’s some of what’s been reported about Conditt:

• He participated in what an acquaintance described to BuzzFeed as a Christian survivalist youth group for home-schooled children whose members carried knives and practiced archery and shooting. The group was reputedly called “Righteous Invasion of Truth,” whose acronym is RIOT.

• He stated in a blog post that gay marriage should be illegal because homosexuality, like bestiality and pedophilia, is “not natural.” Wrote Conditt: “I do not believe it is proper to pass laws stating that homosexuals have ‘rights.’ “

• Another individual who knew him told the Austin American-Statesman that he was lonely, argumentative, and “rough around the edges.”

• The first two individuals targeted by his bombs were black—39-year-old Anthony Stephan House and 17-year-old Draylen Mason. (Both died.)

This isn’t to say Conditt’s case is open-and-shut or doesn’t require further investigation. A Latina woman was injured by another bomb, but authorities say she may not have been the one targeted by it. Two white men were injured by a bomb Conditt apparently placed outdoors. And we don’t yet know the intended destination of the device that exploded at a FedEx shipping center or another that was found and disposed of in a controlled detonation at a different FedEx facility. But should it really be impossible for a law enforcement official in 2018 to imagine that violence committed by a young, angry white man—one who was apparently trained to prepare for cataclysmic events by adults in a weapons-fixated, insular right-wing community—might speak to issues beyond his personal life alone?