There are few details regarding who built and placed package bombs at three different Austin, TX homes that killed two people and injured two more in the last two weeks, but investigators are starting to piece together a theory on the motive of the attacks.
Anthony Stephan House, 39, was killed on his front porch after a bomb disguised as a package exploded on March 2. Ten days later, Draylen Mason, 17, was killed after a bomb exploded in his home, and Esperanza Herrera, 75, was critically injured in a separate explosion. Mason’s mother was also injured, though her injuries are not life-threatening.
Investigators are focusing on determining whether the attacks were racially motivated after connections between the victims and prominent African-American families in Austin were discovered. House’s stepfather, Freddie Dixon—a former pastor at an Austin church—and Mason’s grandfather, Dr. Norman Mason, are longtime friends dating back to their college days when they pledged to the same fraternity.
Dixon was once the pastor at Wesley United Methodist Church, which both he and Dr. Mason still attend regularly. The church holds significance in Austin due to its role in establishing the Austin Urban League in 1977 and housing classes for Huston-Tillotson University in the past.
“It’s not just coincidental … somebody’s done their homework on both of us, and they knew what they were doing,” said Dixon.
What perplexed investigators was the attack on Herrera. She is Hispanic and has no connection to House, Dixon or the Mason family, but, according to the Washington Post, the package that injured Herrera, who was injured at her mother’s home, was not addressed to the home to which it was delivered. According to the American-Statesman, investigators believe the deadly package was intended for a neighbor, Erica Mason, who might have been targeted under the belief that she was a member of the Mason family. Investigators interviewed Erica, who is from Iowa, on Wednesday and concluded that she was not a member of the targeted family, but it is not known conclusively if she was the intended target.
“My diagnosis: Number one, I think it’s a hate crime. Number two, somebody’s got some kind of vendetta here,” said Dixon.