FLORENCE, Texas (KXAN) — Several explosions went off Monday afternoon at the Department of Public Safety’s tactical training center in rural Williamson County. The blasts caused no alarm, though, because several law enforcement agencies were using them solely for training other first responders.
The Houston division of the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms & Explosives, or ATF, hosted the exercise along with DPS and the Austin Police Department. The training included demonstrations of several explosions with different materials that local and state law enforcement might encounter. These agencies previously joined together when they responded to investigate the Austin serial bombings in March.
“We’re teaching [first responders] the same procedures that our team used during the Austin investigation,” Alex Guerrero said. Guerrero, an explosives enforcement officer with the ATF, is leading the five-day course. He also served as his agency’s lead bomb technician during the Austin bombings.
Through this course, he shows first responders what items can make up different types of explosives. “Those items produce leads for our investigators to go out and investigate,” Guerrero said, “to try to find out who did the actual crime.”
Seeing the components firsthand gives officers, like Round Rock Detective Patrick Turck, insight on where to find key evidence. “You can forget that little things like sweeping the blast site to get minute and trace amounts of explosive can actually be that one clue that can link us back to a suspect,” Turck said. “The training’s been phenomenal, but it teaches us those small things to look for.”
The ATF said this is the second of three training courses that it’s hosting throughout Texas. All the events were scheduled before the Austin serial bombings happened, though they underscore just how crucial this information can be for law enforcement.