What May Have Tipped Austin Bomber Off: a Knock on His Door

EMS official says procedural change should prevent another mix-up
By Arden Dier,  Newser Staff
Posted Apr 4, 2018 10:19 AM CDT
Authorities surround the home of Austin bombing suspect Mark Conditt in Pflugerville, Texas, on March 21, 2018.   (Jay Janner /Austin American-Statesman via AP)
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(Newser) – Emergency personnel have raced to fix a procedural issue that may have tipped off Austin bomber Mark Conditt, who blew himself up as police closed in. Officers staked out Conditt's Pflugerville home while he was out on March 20, with plans to arrest him when he returned, and notified Austin-Travis County EMS officials that their services might be needed, reports the Austin American-Statesman. EMS officials were to wait nearby. But a routing of the request by a computer system meant two medics from the Pflugerville Fire Department didn't receive proper instructions. In a move police fear tipped off Conditt to the surveillance, the medics knocked on Conditt's door, thinking someone needed help, and one of Conditt's roommates answered. Conditt was killed a day later when he detonated a bomb in his vehicle, stopped by police near a hotel.

"It wasn't a mistake by the Pflugerville Fire Department," EMS Chief of Staff Jasper Brown says of the mix-up, per the American-Statesman. He explains a specialized EMS crew normally responds to such calls and communicates with police via telephone. But "we have never done that for surveillance only," Brown says, noting a supervisor's request for the crew was denied. A call was then logged in a computer system, which routed it to the Pflugerville department. By the time police instructions were relayed, the medics had already visited Conditt's home. In the future, Brown says a plan will be formed with police before similar requests are entered in the system, which now has a feature preventing automatic call routing. Other areas might be improved, too. "We have to look at a way to make ourselves more resilient and stronger coming out of this," Interim Austin Police Chief Brian Manley tells KTBC.

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