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Residents asked to stay inside

Issued: 2018-03-19

by Tim Stelloh and Rachel Elbaum

Police told residents of a neighborhood in southwest Austin to stay at home until 10 a.m. (11 a.m. ET) Monday after the fourth explosion in less than a month hit Texas' capital, injuring two men.

In a late-night news conference on Sunday, Austin Police Chief Brian Manley raised the possibility that a tripwire triggered the device in Travis County.

“We will not be able to send school buses into the neighborhood on Monday,” he said. “In addition to that, we're going to ask the residents in the Travis County neighborhood to stay in your homes tomorrow morning and give us the opportunity to process the scene once the sun comes up.”

The men hurt in Sunday's blast — both in their 20s — were being treated for non-life threatening injuries, officials said.

Manley asked the community “to have an extra level of vigilance and pay attention to any suspicious device whether it be a package, a bag, a backpack, anything that looks out of place and do not approach it.”

Police are working under the belief that the incident is related to a string of unsolved package bombings this month which killed two and injured two others, though that has not yet been confirmed.

Stephen House, 39, was killed on the morning of March 2, and Draylen Mason, 17, died on the morning of March 12. Both were African-American members of the same church, Nelson Linder, the local NAACP chapter president, told NBC News last week.

Mason's 41-year-old mother was critically injured in the explosion. Just before noon on March 12, a third bombing critically injured a 75-year-old Hispanic woman, Esperanza Herrera.

Linder added that someone connected to the House or Mason families was the intended target in the third explosion, although he declined to provide additional details.

Asked Sunday whether the bombings were racially motivated, Manley said it's possible.

Police believe the two earlier bombings were "meant to send a message," though Manley didn't say what that message was during a news conference earlier Sunday.

Manley said that he hoped the bomber was watching and would "reach out to us before anyone else is injured or killed."

The plea came as local and federal authorities increased the reward for information leading to a conviction to $100,000, Manley said. Texas Gov. Greg Abbott was also offering $15,000.

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