FBI, ATF and local police investigating deadly Austin explosion


AUSTIN (KXAN) — A multi-pronged investigation involving multiple agencies is underway after a device exploded on a front porch Friday morning, killing the man who was handling it.

Austin police say the call came in at 6:55 a.m. in the 1100 block of Haverford Drive, in northeast Austin’s Harris Ridge neighborhood. Several 911 callers reported hearing an explosion and said that a victim had traumatic injuries.

Austin-Travis County EMS said a man in his 40s was taken to St. David’s Round Rock Medical Center with critical, life-threatening injuries. He died less than an hour later.

During a news conference Friday morning, Police Chief Brian Manley was flanked by representatives from the Federal Bureau of Investigation and the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosive (ATF) and a postal inspector. Manley says they believe this is an isolated incident, but they’re not “making any assumptions.”

“Based on what we know right now, we have no reason to believe this is anything beyond an isolated incident that took place at this residence and in no way this is linked to a terroristic attack,” Manley says.

‘There was a pool of blood everywhere.’

As part of the investigation, detectives are reaching out to all the companies that deliver mail in the area to see if a package was recently delivered to the home. Manley says they are still trying to determine what the device was and what caused the actual explosion.

People who live in the area tell KXAN police told them it might have been a pipe bomb and that they found shredded metal nearby.

“Just a loud boom so deep and it shook the windows,” recalls Monica Sledge who lives around the corner. “At first I kind of froze and grabbed my son and went what I thought was the opposite direction.”

“You hear gunshots every once in a while, but we thought maybe it was an elephant gun,” neighbor Kenneth Thompson Sr. says. “It’s the loudest boom I’ve heard in a long time here.”

The damaged home after a man was killed by the explosion of a "device" on Haverford Drive in northeast Austin on March 2, 2018 (KXAN Photo/Paul Shelton)

After the loud noise, Thompson says he went outside and saw his neighbor on the ground. “I saw my neighbors had run across the street and was actually trying to turn the guy over… I did notice there was a pool of blood everywhere,” said Thompson.

Thompson says the man was the former president of their HOA. “He’s a good guy, he’s a family man, in fact just yesterday evening as I was coming home him and his wife were out teaching their daughter how to ride a bicycle.”

K-9s were used to sniff out the area to make sure all evidence related to the explosion wasn’t missed and that the area was secured.

Police reopened Haverford Drive just before 8:30 p.m. Friday evening. The road was closed for more than 12 hours.

A retired Marine who lives nearby told KXAN the thought of someone possibly making a deadly device like this is disturbing. “It sounds like they used some sort of fragmentation device, maybe some metal and casing or they possibly filled the bomb with some types of pieces of metal, sort of like an IED,” he said. “That’s somebody intent on doing harm, yeah, somebody intent on doing real harm.”

Many neighbors were still shaken up Friday night. They said it’s tragic a man lost his life this way, but they’re glad no one else was hurt.

One neighbor said, “My wife could’ve been out walking the dog down the sidewalk in front of the home, any neighbor could’ve.”

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