Austin, Texas, recently experienced 19 days of terror at the hands of an unknown figure, as hundreds of law-enforcement officers crisscrossed the Texas capital in a race to track down a shadow. We now know the “who”: The bombings are suspected to have been perpetrated by a 23-year-old, homegrown, unemployed community-college dropout named Mark Anthony Conditt. Investigators probably know the makeup of the mechanical switches he used to detonate his seven explosive devices, ones filled with smokeless powder along with nails to enhance their shrapnel effect. The Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms, and Explosives (ATF) and the FBI likely rebuilt each device to study it. What we don’t know is the composition of the switch in the bomber’s head that, once flipped, allowed him to move forward with his assault on the sense of safety and security of the city of Austin. It’s the “why” we don’t understand.
Conditt, who would say in regard to these bombings, “I wish I were sorry, but I am not,” did not seem markedly different from other men and women his age in his community. Conditt once identified himself as politically conservative, with some making much of his six-year-old statements against abortion and gay marriage. Others countered that he was against sex offenders being labeled for life, a position perhaps associated with a more liberal base. So what drove him to murder? These were not spontaneous acts. These bombings were a planned, methodical series of decisions that he could have stopped at any point before his eventual death at his own hands.