Since the identity of the Austin bomber was revealed Wednesday (March 21), several stories have surfaced about Mark Anthony Conditt. Family members were in shock about about the 23-year-old's connection to the bombings, while friends noticed his strange behavior.
Austin police Chief Brian Manley shared similar words while discussing the man who killed two people and injured several others with homemade devices. “Having listened to that recording, he does not at all mention anything about terrorism nor did he mention anything about hate," Manley said about Conditt's 25-minute confession. "But instead, it is the outcry of a very challenged young man, talking about challenges in his personal life that led him to this point."
Except all signs point to the obvious: Mark Anthony Conditt was a terrorist. The definition of terrorism has changed over time, leaving many to suspect that only political factors can be the only influence behind a terrorist attack.
Merriam-Webster defines the noun as the following:
relating to, or characteristic of terrorists or terrorism : practicing or involving violent acts of terror
Meanwhile, the US government has several layouts for terrorism and suspected terrorists. The State Department claim military practices used outside of militant areas constitute as terrorism. The Department of Homeland Security says terrorism occurs within "mass destruction." The Defense Department leans on the notion that incidents have become "terrorist-inspired," while the FBI has two separate definitions for international and domestic terrorism.
International terrorism: Perpetrated by individuals and/or groups inspired by or associated with designated foreign terrorist organizations or nations (state-sponsored).
Domestic terrorism: Perpetrated by individuals and/or groups inspired by or associated with primarily U.S.-based movements that espouse extremist ideologies of a political, religious, social, racial, or environmental nature.
All things considered, Conditt's actions are kin to domestic terrorism. No motive was blatant, allowing everyone to give Conditt the benefit of the doubt. But it's clear his actions were meant to strike fear and kill, and we don't need to vet definitions to know this came from a place of hate. With gleaming photos of the Pflugerville native (like the one above) connected to headlines, it's easy to build a story around a non-black/brown person being lost, and whose tortured soul lead them down a path of murder and frenzied satisfaction. It does wonders for non-black and brown folks, since it continues to push the narrative about mental health while keeping hate-based crimes under a comfy blanket. But what lies beneath are traits of a homegrown terrorist.
Before the Conditt committed suicide by detonating his own bomb, clues were in plain sight. Shipping labels used at a FedEx facility Tuesday (March 20) carried the ironic name, "Kelly Killmore." Conditt was home-schooled and later attended Austin Community College from 2010 to 2012. He penned several takes on abortion, religion and terrorism for Defining My Stance, a defunct site which linked to students' blogs for a US government class project. Conditt compared gay marriage to beastiality and shamed women in favor of preventative medicine.
Friends of Conditt told reporters his views changed once he finished home-schooling.
"When I met Mark, he was really rough around the edges," Jeremiah Jensen told the Austin American-Statesman. He and Conditt became friends during their home-school days and would attend Bible study together. "He was a very assertive person and would ... end up being kind of dominant and intimidating in conversation. A lot of people didn't understand him and where he was coming from. He really just wanted to tell the truth. What I remember about him [...] he would push back on you if you said something without thinking about it."
Tim Lambert, president of the Texas Home School Coalition, subtly shared the same sentiments in statement to the public Wednesday (Mar. 21).
"Raised by both parents in a Christian home, Conditt reportedly walked away from his faith several years ago," he said. "Today’s revelations about the Austin bombings provide a stark reminder that we live in a fallen world. Unfortunately, no form of education, public or private, can ensure a tragedy like this will never happen."
Conditt held his last job at a manufacturing company, but was unemployed as of recently. His Google searches uncovered by authorities found how-to's for making homemade bombs with tools from hardware or sporting goods stores.
If these factors fit anyone else of activated melanin, would we not rush to call him a terrorist? Certainly not a "challenged, young" person.
Then there are the victims of the Austin bombings. Stephen House and Draylen Mason were reportedly members of prominent African-American families who knew each other. Mason, 17, was a musician expected to attend the University of Texas Butler School of Music while House, 39, had a finance degree from Texas State University and previously worked as a project manager for Texas Quarries. Faith connected the two as House's stepfather was a pastor at Wesley United Methodist Church. Pastor Dixon was close to Mason's grandparents, Austin NAACP president Nelson Linder told reporters. Linder says the third package picked up by Esperanza Herrera might've been for someone else. “The intended target was another person who might be connected to the House and Mason families,” said Linder.
A 25-minute confession was found on Conditt's phone, breaking down his actions. A target list was also found with plans to plant package bombs in Cedar Park, a suburb north of Austin with a heavy Latino and Asian population.
As authorities continue to scratch their heads about Conditt's message, two lives were lost with little memorial or odes from big media. Here we have a soul who decided to take life into his own hands by implanting fear across the nation. At the end of the day, is that not what terrorism is all about?