Austin explosions prompt worries about, reminders of package safety

AUSTIN (KXAN) - After two more explosive packages were left on Austin porches Monday, people across the city expressed their worries and talked about how to keep their homes safer.

Monday, Austin police investigators determined a package bomb that killed a teen and injured a woman was likely connected to a bomb that killed a man on March 2. Investigators say it appears the packages were placed on porches instead of being left by a delivery driver. APD believes these explosions are part of a pattern of incidents.

Austin police urged the public: if you receive a package you’re not expecting and don’t recognize the sender, call 911.

As of 6 p.m. on Monday, APD received 82 calls for suspicious packages — not including the calls about the explosions earlier on in the day. The calls started at 8:12 a.m. Monday morning and continued into the evening. APD is being cautious about all of them, but has not been advised that there was an explosive device in any of these. For comparison, APD received only two suspicious package calls on Monday, March 5.

One of those calls happened in the Scofield Farms neighborhood midday Monday, after a report of a suspicious package police blocked off a portion of Staton Drive. APD officers with dogs and protective gear looked around the home, Austin Fire Department employees donned their fire suits and Austin-Travis County EMS wheeled out a stretcher and stood at the ready in case anything went wrong. But after some investigation, APD found that there were no explosive devices there.

Scott Ball who lives nearby heard about the other explosions in Austin only after he saw the officers on his own street.

“We’re gonna start looking around for anything that’s not quite right,” Ball said, surprised to hear about the deadly incidents in other parts of the city

“That’s kind of crazy for Austin — Austin doesn’t have anything like that going on, especially in a series of more than just one weird thing going on. It’s different, scary.”

In East Austin near 12th and Springdale, resident Daniel Arriaga found a package at his doorstep Monday he wasn’t expecting. It was addressed to his daughter. Arriaga called first responders to look at the package.

“They scanned the box, the package, they scanned it,” Arriaga said. “They told me to take it to — to call the post office, and ask them, tell them the tracking number.”

Even now, Arriaga is scared of picking up or opening the box.

“I don’t want to give the package to my daughter and have something happen, and I would regret it for the rest of my life,” he said.

Package Safety

A spokesperson for UPS delivery told KXAN on Tuesday that their company did not deliver any of the explosive packages and that UPS does not deliver packages overnight.

“UPS drivers wear the UPS uniform and announce themselves when making deliveries by knocking on the door or ringing the doorbell,” said Matthew O’Connor with UPS. He added that UPS offers additional tracking services and updates that allow customers to know if UPS is delivering something to their home.

“We do not believe this package was delivered by any of the official mail services, whether it be the US Postal Services, UPS, FedEx or DHL,” said Interim Austin Police Chief Brian Manley at a press conference Monday. “But that will part of the investigation. But standing here today we do not believe it was delivered by any official delivery service.”

Chief Manley added that the devices used in the recent explosions can detonate by being moved or opened.

“And that’s why I want to reiterate the importance of if you see something that’s out of place do not handle it, do not move it,” he said. “Do not touch it. Call us.”

He added that APD does not know when the packages on Monday were delivered, only that the victims saw the packages on the front porch, handled the packages in some way, and then the explosions happened. Chief Manley couldn’t go into specific sizes of the boxes, but he said they were “an average size, not exceptionally large.”

“What we do know is we have an individual who knows how to construct these [explosives] and cause serious loss of life,” Chief Manley said.

Sean Spector, the CEO of Austin-based delivery service Dropoff, agrees that if anything seems suspicious about a package you receive, to call 911. Spector said there are things consumers can do to be on the lookout for suspicious deliveries.

  • Make sure the full address is filled out as well as the return address. “It should not solely contain your title or title and name. Poorly typed or written text and excessive postage are also indicators,” Spector said.
  • Look for a driver in uniform and a vehicle with the company logo on it.
  • Take precaution if you notice an off-color, stains, powder, or excessive tape or strings.
  • If possible, call or email the sender to check the validity of the package. Spector said his drivers have access to the contact information of package senders on-hand for this reason.

Central Texas courier service Ace Delivery told KXAN that customers should also be on the lookout for packages without markings. Most companies will have a marker to show the package came from the right place, explained Ronnie Garcia, general manager of Ace.

Garcia said that you should not pick up or shake a box if you don’t know where it’s coming from. He recommends checking with your household to see if anyone else is expecting packages. Garcia added that it can also be helpful to work with companies that leave official delivery slips when they deliver a package.

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