AUSTIN (KXAN) — A Round Rock police officer was just yards away from the Austin bomber minutes before he blew himself up. The officer was sitting near the Shell station on Interstate 35 when federal agents were closing in on Mark Anthony Conditt at a hotel next door.
She never knew what was about to happen.
It wasn’t until Officer Sky Mount heard the explosion a few seconds later that she realized something was going on. At the time, the entire Austin area was on high-alert amid a string of bombings that killed two people over the course of three weeks.
The sound of an explosion that morning would have sent anyone in Austin into a frenzy.
“Dude, I was right by it,” Mount tells another officer in an encounter captured on Mount’s body camera video. Mount is driving up to several different officers working to figure out where the explosion happened.
“Hey, I’m trying to find out where the [expletive] it detonated. Dude, I was sitting right here on the south side of 2000 and I heard a boom,” Mount tells another officer. “Yeah, I saw the flash,” an unidentified officer responded.
“But nobody will [expletive] tell me where it’s at,” Mount said before driving off to search for the scene.
Mount’s body camera video was turned over to KXAN in an open record request this week. It took the department weeks after the FBI closed its investigation into Conditt to make the recordings public. Austin Police, the FBI and the ATF still have either not released their recordings from that morning or have not responded to formal requests for those public records.
The Round Rock police body camera and patrol car recordings show a confused police department in the minutes following the Conditt encounter. It’s clear from the video that Round Rock officers were not given any sort of warning of federal agents’ plans to arrest Conditt that morning.
The video also shows officers on the scene before Mount claiming not to have heard a “detonation” seconds before.
“Jerry, I was sitting just now — I was sitting right here on the south side of 2000 and I freaking heard it go off,” Mount tells an officer.
“Heard what go off,” the officer she called Jerry responded.
“The bomb,” Mount said.
“Oh, did one just go off?”
“Yeah,” Mount said.
“Where is it?” Jerry asked.
“Yeah, that would be great to know, I keep asking and nobody will tell me. I heard the boom and then they all of a sudden said detonation and — they just said it was in front of 3 Men Moving,” Mount explained in the body camera video.
“So, I don’t know where. I’ve asked like two separate times and nobody will tell me,” Mount told the officer.
Other Round Rock officers’ body camera recordings show the department starting piecing together what happened as federal agents realized Conditt was dead from a bomb blast from inside his SUV. An unidentified officer finally fills Officer Mount in on the news — when in the same conversation — another officer again denies an explosion happened.
“They said there was a detonation,” Mount tells an unidentified officer as she explains what was relayed over her patrol car’s computer earlier that morning.
“We haven’t heard — we were out and we haven’t heard anything,” the officer told Mount.
The unidentified officer again tells Mount an explosion didn’t happen and offered another explanation.
“They might have thrown a flashbang,” the officer said.
“Well, then they said there was a detonation in front of 3 Men Movers, have medics on the scene working,” Mount again relays to the officer the information from her dispatch log.
“3 Men Movers is right here, that’s probably where they threw a flashbang where they stopped. There hasn’t been a detonation since we’ve been out here,” the officer tells Mount.
A second unidentified officer finally tells Mount what she heard was an explosion. "[inaudible…] He self-detonates; he’s dead,” the officer tells Mount in a garbled recording captured on her body camera.
“What did I tell you,” Round Rock Officer Dylan Troop tells two other officers near the scene.
“You were right, you were right,” the officers responded.
“I didn’t think he had the balls to blow himself up,” an unidentified female officer tells Troop.
“They don’t have the balls to fight you, that’s what the problem is,” Troop tells the pair. “Anytime they get confronted, it’s boom. Very rarely do you get in gunfights with them. It’s the people they’ve got working for them that will do the gunfight.”
“You can smell it,” one of the two unidentified officers tells Troop.
“Yeah, you can smell it all the way to [in audible],” Troop said.
“As soon as we pulled up you can smell it,” the other officer commented.
That conversation about smelling the explosion happened about 10 minutes after Conditt’s final bomb went off.
The wake of the Austin bomber
The Texas Department of Public Safety was the first law enforcement agency to make video recordings from that morning available. In August, DPS published helicopter video from the moment federal agents tried to stop Conditt’s SUV on the Interstate 35 frontage road. That video also showed Conditt blow himself up inside the vehicle.
In January, the FBI and the U.S. Attorney’s Office formally closed the investigation into Conditt. Part of their investigation was to determine whether Conditt acted alone, why he targeted his victims and what motivated him to do this.
Conditt’s bombing spree led to the deaths of 39-year-old Anthony Stephan House and 17-year-old Draylen Mason. Both men died in separate bombings. Four others were hurt: 75-year-old Esperanza Herrera at a home in east Austin, two men in their 20s injured by a tripwire bomb in southwest Austin and a FedEx employee who suffered a concussion from the explosion at the Schertz distribution facility.
Conditt was linked to a total of seven homemade, explosive packages, including one he had with him as police tracked him down on March 20.
The video, posted on the Texas Department of Public Safety's YouTube channel, shows the bomber's vehicle leave the Red Roof Inn parking lot and move south on the I-35 frontage near Old Settlers Boulevard around 2 a.m. on March 21, followed by two vans.
The video then shows one of the vans slow in front of Conditt's vehicle before being rammed from behind by another van. A member of the tactical team then runs toward Conditt's passenger window and tries to break it open, followed seconds later by a large explosion that killed the bomber.
Authorities said Conditt detonated a bomb inside his vehicle after a SWAT officer fired at him.
Conditt's death was ruled a suicide. One SWAT officer suffered minor injuries from the explosion, officials said at the time.