GEORGETOWN, Texas (KXAN) — A Williamson County grand jury decided Thursday not to charge the officer who fired at the Austin bomber in March.
The grand jury process is a routine step whenever officers use deadly force.
The evidence before the jury Thursday includes a Department of Public Safety video that captures aerials of the confrontation with Mark Conditt on Interstate 35 in Round Rock on March 20.
It ended when the 23-year-old detonated an explosive he had with him. An officer fired at him after. Conditt died in the blast and a SWAT officer was thrown back and had minor injuries. Conditt’s death was ruled a suicide.
District Attorney Shawn Dick said he wanted to follow policy and have the grand jury take a look at the facts of the case.
Conditt was linked to seven homemade, explosive packages. Two people died and four others were hurt in the series of explosions in March.
Only one officer fired at Conditt during the confrontation. The officer who was hurt has recovered and all officers are back on duty, according to APD.
APD held a news conference at its headquarters on Thursday, where Chief Brian Manley said, “I do want to take a moment, again, to reflect on the month of March and the impact that March had on our community… and the lives that were really changed.”
Manley acknowledged the loss of Draylen Mason and Anthony House and their families as he released APD’s video from the bombings.
“What this video displays, really, is the heroism of I think law enforcement across this country, but specifically two of our officers,” Manley said.
Heroism. It’s a word Manley kept coming back to as he reflected on what he saw, watching the moment weeks of terror came to an end. The aerial video shows the chase and ultimate suicide of the Austin bomber.
“Ultimately, they made the decision to apprehend him along the frontage road of I-35, knowing that had he got onto I-35, we would not know where he potentially would go, who else he might try to injure, if he had devices with him, would he trying to throw them along the highway, there was just too much at risk,” Manley said.
He continued, “It shows them putting their lives in harm’s way as they tried to break through that window and get him in custody. I think this exemplifies the heroism of the men and women who serve our community and communities across this country and what they’re willing to do to keep communities safe.”
The video was taken from an APD helicopter, showing a different angle than one the state released last week. APD chose to wait on the grand jury’s decision.
“This is really the opportunity to give just a little bit more of an insight to the community of what happened that night in those final moments,” Manley said.
This comes as APD’s investigation continues, along with the FBI and ATF. We’re told the FBI’s investigation includes a DNA evaluation and digital forensics. A limited number of interviews still need to be conducted in the case.
Within that investigation, APD is still determining whether to release the bomber’s 25-minute confession tape, something Manley fears could do more harm than good.
“On that video, the bomber talks about mistakes that he believes that he made and how he thinks that that may have allowed law enforcement to catch up to him,” Manley said. “So to release that information could better educate someone who might consider doing this in the future or it might be a motivation for someone who wants their voice to be heard for years beyond.”
Manley said at this point, there’s nothing to indicate the victims were targeted, but this is still an active investigation.
Austin police confirmed the officers who approached the bomber weren’t wearing body cameras. That’s because SWAT hadn’t received them in the rollout yet.
KXAN has reported on the delays tied to our biggest police force getting the cameras.
Two years ago, police were supposed to start using the cameras in an effort to provide more transparency to the community. But a lawsuit put them behind. Just last September, APD moved forward with the cameras. They say 1,500 officers are now wearing them and they hope to expand that to the entire force soon.