After shying away from questions on whether or not the Austin bomber should be classified as a terrorist, Interim Police Chief Brian Manley is now calling Mark Conditt a “domestic terrorist.” 

Manley made the distinction during a panel hosted by KUT Thursday morning.

“When I look at what he did to our community — and as your police chief — I actually agree now, that he was a domestic terrorist for what he did to us,” Manley said to applause. 

Manley went on to say during the investigation, he was “driven and laser-focused” on finding the person or persons responsible for “unleashing” the violence in the Austin community. He noted that since the case could have ended up going through the legal process once a suspect(s) was in custody, he made it a point to be very specific on the legal definitions of classifying a case as terrorism.

“But in that moment, I want you to understand, I was so focused on putting a stop to it and making sure we did it in a way that allowed us to handle the suspect or suspects in the court system in the future. I was very focused on specific language,” continued Manley. 

Now that the apparent serial bomber is deceased, Manley says he has had time to reflect on the case and “absorb all of the impacts” it had. 

“I am very comfortable saying that to our community and what he did to us, he was a domestic terrorist.”

Over the span of three weeks in March, police say Conditt detonated bombs that killed two people and injured five others. He ended up killing himself with a bomb when authorities were about to arrest him on March 21. 

Church leaders applaud Manley’s decision

Thursday evening, Chief Manley attended a worship service at Grant A.M.E. Church in north Austin.

He said, “Based on the conduct the bomber had committed in Austin, and having now a week to understand the dramatic impact it had across our community, I believe that it is safe to say he was a domestic terrorist.”

He went on to explain, “That is not a charge that can be filed, so there’s no legal specificity you have to have. I just believe that his conduct in Austin, having had time to step away from the investigation and really the demands of that, to really focus on how did it impact our community? I think that it’s appropriate.”

Pamela Rivera, Presiding Elder of Austin Capital District, told us, “I think that when you look at the — or read the definition of terrorism, it does fit.”

She said it matters that we call what the community has experienced an act of terrorism. 

Austin NAACP President Nelson Linder agreed. “You have to define the problem correctly because that determines how you act in a situation,” he said.

Manley told us he now wants to focus on healing together as one community. During the worship service, he prayed and sang with church leaders. He still emphasized the need to stay vigilant. 

“So we can keep ourselves safe and hopefully never find ourselves in the circumstances we’re in, but we’re a major metropolitan city, there will always be something that challenges our city,” he said.

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