The family of the Austin bomber says they are “devastated and broken at the news” that 23-year-old Mark Conditt was the person behind the attacks.
“We had no idea of the darkness that Mark must have been in,” says Conditt’s aunt Shanee of Colorado. “Our family is a normal family in every way. We love, we pray, and we try to inspire and serve others.
CNN reports Shanee has been in touch with the Conditt family in Pflugerville, who she says is also devastated. “Our family is very loving and kind family. This is just so overwhelmingly devastating,” she said.
Shanee last saw the 23-year-old over Christmas and said everything seemed normal and “wonderful.”
“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 grieving 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.”
People Who Knew the Bomber’s Family
Jeff Reeb says when he heard the news of Mark Conditt this morning, he didn’t want to believe it.
“I was, number one, hoping they were wrong,” Reeb said. “Number two, quite surprised. I’m not sure I still believe it.”
Reeb said Conditt played with his grandsons when they were younger.
“[I’m in] complete shock,” he said. “And the only thing I can say about the whole thing is he and his family are normal as I’ve seen anybody.”
For most of Wednesday morning, federal agents and Austin police searched the home that belongs to Conditt’s parents, which is next door to Reeb’s house in the 600 block of East Pfluger Street in Pflugerville.
An ATF K-9 trained to detect explosives, firearms, shell casings and post-blasts, also went through the home, but investigators said the dog didn’t find anything suspicious inside.
A detective with the Austin Police Department said Conditt’s family members have been very cooperative during this ongoing investigation and “wanted to express their condolences to the families of those that have been affected.”
Friends of Conditt
Conditt was home schooled, and those who grew up with him say they didn’t feel he showed any warning signs when he was younger.
“People have asked me if I saw this coming, or if he exhibited any tendencies that would have made me think that he was capable of something like this and the answer is no,” said childhood friend Jeremiah Jensen in an interview with KERA Radio in Dallas, Wednesday.
Jensen said he and Conditt grew up going to church together, and often, their families would have lunch together after Sunday services.
Jensen said it had been a few years since he spoke to Conditt.
“He’s not a psychopath. Something broke him. Something broke him and I don’t know what that was,” Jensen said. “Maybe he was lonely when he died, and I don’t know why he did what he did. I don’t know why he succumbed to hatred or the loneliness or the sadness.”
Jensen said Conditt struggled socially.
“He could kind of come off as kind of dominant and pugnacious in conversation, however, as he got to know you and as he became more comfortable over the couple of years that I knew him, he started to, he started to soften,” Jensen said.
Despite some gruffness, however, those who knew Conditt and his family say they could not fathom what he did.
“I was shocked out of my mind,” said a former member of his home school group. “I saw a photo, I think it was on Yahoo, and I was like, ‘Oh my God, I know that guy.'”
The woman from Conditt’s home school group, who asked to stay anonymous, added that people should not blame his home schooling for his actions. Some have been critical online, suggesting the isolation of home schooling could have played a part in why he did what he did.
“The idea that home schoolers are more sheltered or don’t have as many social opportunities as traditional schoolers do is a myth,” she said. “I think that our parents proactively make sure that we have opportunities to network with our peers and to just create really broad perspectives and be able to learn about the world in the most hands on way possible.”