Blast that rocked Texas FedEx facility may narrow search for Austin bomber

AUSTIN — A bomb blast that rocked a Texas FedEx facility near San Antonio on Tuesday widened the destructive path of a serial bomber but provided "extensive evidence" that may have narrowed the intense manhunt for the killer.

In this image taken from video, police respond to the scene of an explosion at a FedEx facility in Schertz, Texas, on Tuesday.

The package bomb that exploded near San Antonio was mailed from Austin, where four bombings this month have killed two people, wounded four more and stumped hundreds of local, state and federal law enforcement officers. One worker suffered minor injuries in Tuesday’s blast, authorities said.

"It would be silly for us not to admit that we suspect it’s related” to the four bombings in Austin, FBI San Antonio spokeswoman Michelle Lee told the Associated Press.

FedEx confirmed "the individual responsible" for the blast also sent a second package found at the distribution center in Schertz, about 20 miles northeast of San Antonio and 65 miles south of Austin. Authorities said, however, that no second bomb had been found.

"We have provided law enforcement responsible for this investigation extensive evidence related to these packages and the individual that shipped them collected from our advanced technology security systems," FedEx said in a statement.

The explosion rocked the facility at about 1 a.m., prompting a massive response of Schertz and state police, agents from the FBI and the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives as well as SWAT and bomb squads from the San Antonio Police Department.

Schertz Police Chief Michael Hansen said the explosion came from a package on a conveyor belt in the sorting area of the facility. The injured worker was treated for injuries and released at the scene, he said.

Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton told KXAN-TV that the package that exploded in Schertz was shipped from — and bound for — Austin. Investigators closed off an Austin-area FedEx store where they believe the bomb was sent to the distribution center.

Authorities were also out in force at a FedEx distribution center in Austin after a suspicious package was found there in the early morning hours. There was no immediate word about whether that package contained explosives.

Bryan Jaimes, 19, was among the FedEx workers told to evacuate the Austin center. Jaimes said he had no time to grab his jacket and cellphone and was told he could not take his car from the lot.

“I’m just glad I didn’t handle that package,” Jaimes said. “I could have been hurt, maybe even killed.”

More: Austin bombings: What we know now, including the blast near San Antonio

The four separate explosions in Austin this month have killed two people and wounded four others. Authorities have said those blasts most likely were connected. The most recent blast in Austin seriously wounded two men late Sunday.

“Clearly, we are dealing with a serial bomber,” Police Chief Brian Manley said after that attack. He encouraged residents to call 911 if they see any suspicious packages, bags or backpacks.

The result has been more than 1,000 calls from the unnerved residents of Austin. A few hours after authorities cleared the residential community where Sunday’s blast happened, Austin police dispatched a SWAT unit to an apartment complex and issued a warning on Twitter people to stay clear of the area.

The late-night notice, which ordinarily would have only been picked up by news junkies and local media outlets, was retweeted nearly 400 times with breathless speculation that the bomber might finally be cornered.

After about an hour at the scene, police announced that it was nothing more than a domestic disturbance involving an armed man who threatened to set fire to the apartment complex.

Manley also said 500 law enforcement officials working the case have found persons of interest but no clear suspects. Authorities desperate for a break have asked residents to review home security videos for clues.

In Washington, Homeland Security Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen said she discussed the case with Texas Gov. Greg Abbott and FedEx officials.

“We are working very hard on these tragic events," she said. "We’re working with the FBI and we’ve offered any additional investigative support that we might have."

Abbott said the state is committing $265,000 in emergency funding for police and the state bomb response team.

“I want to ensure everyone in the Austin region and the entire state that Texas is committed to providing every resource necessary to make sure these crimes are solved as quickly as possible,” Abbott said. “I offer my sincere thanks to law enforcement at the local, state and federal level for their efforts to ensure that those responsible for these attacks are apprehended and brought to justice.”

Bacon reported from McLean, Va. Contributing: Eliza Collins, USA TODAY

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