Austin Package Bombings Could Be Hate Crime, Police Say, As Black Teenage Musician Becomes Second Victim

Police in Austin, Texas, have said they cannot rule out a string of deadly bombing attacks as hate crimes after a celebrated teenage musician was named as the second victim. 

Austin Police Chief Brian Manley said on Tuesday at a press conference that the department is still investigating the attacks that killed two people and injured two others after suspicious packages left outside their homes exploded. 

Manley said investigators could not rule out the possibility that the attacks, which they believe are connected, were carried out as hate crimes or terrorism, stating that police could not "ignore the fact that the three victims that were targeted specifically, that we know of, were all people of color." 

aed127a7-1936-4441-87bb-b41e0d58dec3_profile Draylen Mason, 17, was the second victim killed in a string of bombing attacks that police believe may be connected R Williams/YouCaring

"That does not indicate that it is a hate crime," Manley said," but we are not going to rule that out because we don't want to limit anything that we're considering as we investigate this case."

Seventeen-year-old Draylen Mason was named as the second victim of the bombings. Manley said the young musician had been described as an "outstanding young man" who was a key member of local music programs, including the Austin Youth Orchestra, where he was the principal double bass player. He had also recently been accepted into the competitive University of Texas Butler School of Music in Austin.

"He was going places with his life and it's an absolute tragedy that he's no longer with us," Manley added. The teenager's mother is in hospital in stable condition after suffering injuries in the explosion. 

An online fundraiser set up by community members says Mason had been preparing for his morning workout with his mother, Shamika, when the package left outside their home exploded. 

So far, more than $6,000 has been donated, which will go towards supporting Mason's family and helping them rebuild their home, which was extensively damaged in the explosion.

Both Mason and Anthony Stephan House, the 39-year-old father killed in a similar bombing attack just 10 days before the teenager's death, were African-American. They were also both considered prominent members of the city's black community, with House being the stepson of Freddie Dixon, a former pastor at a historic black church in Austin, The Washington Post has reported.

A third attack also occurred on Monday, leaving a 75-year-old Hispanic woman in hospital with serious injuries. Police said they are still working to determine whether the woman was the intended target of the package. 

Police have said they believe the three attacks are connected due to "similarities" between them, including the way the explosives were left outside victims' homes, as well as the fact that they were left in similar cardboard packaging without any identifiable labels. 

Read more: Austin Package Explosions Kill Teen, Injure Two Women

While police say they have yet to determine whether the attacks were racially-motivated, a prominent Black Lives Matter Twitter account has mourned the loss of Mason, calling on the public to "protect our communities from hate."

"Our graveyards are filled with unrealized potential. The violence and hate must stop," BLM said in a Twitter post. "Say his name, Draylen Mason, we will not forget you. It's time to protect our communities from hate," the account added. 

Police are offering a $50,000 award for information that leads to an arrest in the attacks. They have warned people in Austin not to move or touch any suspicious packages and call 911 immediately instead.