Authorities ask for continued vigilance about suspicious packages despite death of bombings suspect

Grocery stores, apartments, restaurants evacuated

By NICOLE CHAVEZ, CNN
Scott Olson/Getty Images

(CNN) - Despite announcing the death of the man suspected to be behind a series of deadly bombings in Austin, authorities still want people to report any suspicious packages or devices they see.

The community was on edge after the explosion of several package bombs and other devices since March 2 -- attacks that left two people dead and five others hurt -- but officials announced early Wednesday that the man they believe was responsible for the attacks -- later identified as Mark Anthony Conditt, 23 -- died when a device blew up on his car as authorities closed in on him.

Before that development, officials evacuated and then reopened several grocery stores, apartment buildings and restaurants as more tips and concerns were called in about suspicious packages. The sight of yellow crime scene tape and the sound of helicopters overhead were becoming a common occurrence as law enforcement officials searched for clues and the suspect.

"This is terrorizing the city of Austin," Rep. Michael McCaul told President Donald Trump at a law enforcement roundtable on Tuesday, before police zeroed in on Conditt.

At a police briefing on Tuesday, City Council Member Ann Kitchen said residents were coming to her and other city leaders with worries about the explosions.

"Part of that concern is ... that this feels so random, feels like something out of their control, feels like something (where) they don't know what to expect," Kitchen said.

Sandy Orange was at her daughter's cheerleading practice in Southwest Austin on Tuesday when school officials dismissed them, saying there was a possible explosion in the area.

Earlier, authorities investigated a suspicious package at a FedEx facility near her workplace in southeast Austin. Hours later, they were closer to her home.

"I'm scared to death to even (send) my daughter to school in the morning," Orange told CNN affiliate Spectrum News in Austin.

Staff members at local schools are inspecting every piece of mail, while parents like Christina Sabish make sure their children know what to do if they see a suspicious package.

"When people feel informed, they are not scared," Sabish told CNN affiliate KXAN.

In about a week, police say they received around 1,200 calls reporting unattended backpacks, suitcases and boxes.

Shonda Mace described Monday's bombing in southwest Austin as "(a) life-changing event for our neighborhood" and said she was "scared about what's going to happen next."

A day later, a package exploded at a FedEx facility near San Antonio and another one was found before it exploded at another facility in Austin.

Some residents felt like the fear was becoming overwhelming.

"It's been really difficult to know where is safe because there's just been this change in MO (modus operandi)," Emma Weir told KXAN after seeing a popular downtown Austin intersection being evacuated due to a suspicious package.

Austin Police Chief Brian Manley tried to calm nerves, saying it wasn't "time to panic."

"This is home. We are committed. We are driven," Manley said Tuesday, hours before the suspect was located.

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