THE SUSPECT: Family of Mark A. Conditt ‘grieving’ and ‘in shock’
2:10 p.m. update: Relatives of Mark A. Conditt issued a statement Wednesday afternoon saying they are shocked and devastated by the revelation that he was behind the string of bombings that have terrorized Austin this month.
The statement, which was given to CNN, came from members of the family who live in Colorado, not his parents in Pflugerville.
“We are devastated and broken at the news that our family could be involved in such an awful way. We had no idea of the darkness that Mark must have been in,” the family said. “Our family is a normal family in every way. We love, we pray, and we try to inspire and serve others. Right now our prayers are for those families that have lost loved ones, for those impacted in any way, and for the soul of our Mark. We are grieiving and we are in shock. Please respect our privacy as we deal with this terrible, terrible knowledge and try to support each other through this time.”
12:10 update: A picture of the suspected Austin serial bomber Mark A. Conditt provided by a close high school friend on Wednesday paints him as a smart but opinionated — and often intimidating — young man who was “rough around the edges.”
“It’s really sad to think that one of my friends succumbed to hatred of some sort,” Jeremiah Jensen, 24, who was homeschooled in the same Pflugerville community as Conditt, told the American-Statesman. “I have no idea what caused him to make those bombs. Whatever it was I wish he would have reached out to me and asked for help or something.”
Jensen was one of only about a dozen friends listed on Conditt’s Facebook page before it was removed on Wednesday morning.
The two were close in 2012 and 2013, said Jensen, who would often go to the Conditts’ home for lunch after Sunday church service and attended Bible study and other activities with him. Jensen said Conditt came from a good family, was athletic, enjoyed rock climbing and parkour and was a “deep thinker.”
“When I met Mark, he was really rough around the edges,” Jensen said. “He was a very assertive person and would … end up being kind of dominant and intimidating in conversation. A lot of people didn’t understand him and where he was coming from. He really just wanted to tell the truth. What I remember about him he would push back on you if you said something without thinking about it. He loved to think and argue and turn things over and figure out what was really going on.”
Jensen said Conditt attended regular church services at the Austin Stone Community Church on St. John’s Avenue.
“I know faith was a serious thing for him,” he said. “I don’t know if he held onto his faith or not. … The kind of anger that he expressed and the kind of hate that he succumbed to — that’s not what he believed in in high school. I don’t know what happened along the way. This wasn’t him.”
As a fellow homeschool student, Jensen described the inner experience of a lot of his friends as one of “loneliness.”
“It’s just very difficult for a lot of kids to find a way to fit in once they are out in the real world,” he said. “I have a feeling that is what happened with Mark. I don’t remember him ever being sure of what he wanted to do.”
The Austin Stone said in a statement it had no records of Conditt or his family’s active involvement in the church or interactions with staff members, however confirmed that Jensen was a summer intern six years ago.
“We love and grieve with our city and we continue to pray for the victims and their families who were affected by these recent tragedies. We are cooperating with law enforcement with any pertinent information we can find that may be of help as they continue their investigation,” the church said in a statement.
11:30 a.m. update: In 2012, when he was 17 years old, Austin bombing suspect Mark Conditt laid out his political views in a series of blog posts he wrote for an Austin Community College course on U.S. government.
No motive for the bombings has been disclosed, either by the bomber or by authorities. Four bombings in Austin over 17 days left two people dead and four injured. Another bomb exploded in a FedEx distribution facility, and one unexploded bomb was found at another distribution center. Authorities identified the 23-year-old Conditt as the bombing suspect who died in a bomb explosion during a confrontation with police early Wednesday, the American-Statesman and KVUE have reported, citing local and federal law enforcement sources.
On the blog, Conditt described himself as a conservative. It’s not clear whether politics played any role in the bombings, but the blog posts provide insight into Conditt’s thinking as he was growing up.
He wrote that he was against gay marriage and abortion and in favor of the death penalty.
He also wrote that he supported doing away with the sex offender registration system.
“So you have a guy who committed a crime. Will putting him on a (sex offender) list make it better? wouldn’t this only make people shun him, keep him from getting a job, and making friends? Just for a crime that he may have committed over 15 years ago as a adolescent? On a side note, one fifth of all rapes are committed by a juvenile,” Conditt wrote.
On abortion, he wrote: “First, if a women does not want a baby, or is incapable of taking care of one, she should not participate in activities that were made for that reason. Second, if we are going to give women free abortions, why not give men free condoms, or the like? Is it not up to the couple to take these preventive measures?”
Arguing against gay marriage, he wrote that homosexuality is “not natural.”
“Just look at the male and female bodies. They are obviously designed to couple. The natural design is apparent. It is not natural to couple male with male and female with female. It would be like trying to fit two screws together and to nuts together and then say, “See, it’s natural for them to go together.”
Conditt attended ACC from 2010 to 2012 with a declared major of business administration, however he never graduated, school officials said. He took general education courses at the Northridge and Round Rock campuses and left the school in good academic standing, ACC said.
9:45 a.m. update: A close friend of the first victim of the Austin bombings expressed elation Wednesday morning that police had stopped bombing suspect Mark Anthony Conditt but said he was surprised to learn of one possible connection between the men.
While Conditt’s possible motives and ties to the bombing victims were not immediately clear Wednesday, the 23-year-old man lived in the same Austin suburb where the first person to die, Anthony Stephan House, had graduated from high school two decades earlier.
Jeff Lewis, 40, a close friend of House at Pflugerville High School, where the pair ran track on several highly decorated teams, said he didn’t know quite what to make of that connection. “I’m surprised,” he said Wednesday morning. “It hits even closer to home than I thought.”
Conditt, who was homeschooled and attended Austin Community College’s Northridge Campus, died early Wednesday when he apparently detonated a bomb in his vehicle as police closed in on him near Round Rock.
Lewis, 40, said that he was happy to learn that the suspected bomber had been stopped and said he had been worried about the safety of his parents, especially after it appeared that the bomber was targeting prominent African-American families. “God answers prayers,” he said. “I’m just thankful that it’s over. It’s a huge relief. Now it’s time for the healing process for all these other families that are affected.”
Original story: The suspected Austin serial bomber who apparently killed himself early Wednesday as authorities closed in on him was Pflugerville resident Mark A. Conditt, local and federal law enforcement sources told the American-Statesman and KVUE.
As the sun rose, neighbors of the 23-year-old, who was home-schooled growing up and went to Austin Community College, struggled to wrap their minds around the news that he was the suspected bomber.
“I know this is a cliché but I just can’t imagine that,” said neighbor Jeff Reeb, whose grandson grew up playing with Conditt on Pfluger Street. Reeb described Conditt as a nice kid from a great family.
Police have said that Conditt was 24, although some public records indicate he was 23.
Conditt attended Austin Community College’s Northridge Campus and had worked at Crux Semiconductor in Austin as a “purchasing Agent/buyer/shipping and receiving,” according to a profile on a job recruiting website. He previously worked as a computer repair technician.
There are very few public social media posts under his name.
His mother, Danene Conditt, posted a picture of him in February 2013 to mark his completing a high school-level education.
“I officially graduated Mark from High School on Friday. 1 down, 3 to go. He has 30 hrs of college credit too, but he’s thinking of taking some time to figure out what he wants to do….maybe a mission trip. Thanks to everyone for your support over the years.”
He and his father, Pat Conditt, purchased a Pflugerville property last year that is now valued at about $69,000. The neighbor said Mark Conditt had been living in that house, which he built with his father’s help.
Police said Wednesday morning that they believe Mark Conditt created all of the explosive devices used in the recent bombings himself.
They are not sure how he spent his last 24 hours and cautioned Austinites to remain vigilant in case he placed bombs that have yet to go off.
Check back later for updates.