Bloomberg Philanthropies is investing $43 million in more than 200 small and midsize cultural organizations in seven cities — Atlanta; Austin, Tex.; Baltimore; Denver; New Orleans; Pittsburgh; and Washington. “We wanted to reach cities that we thought had a really strong mix in the way they were serving up arts and culture,” said Kate Levin, who oversees arts programs at Bloomberg Philanthropies.
The funding is an expansion of the Arts Innovation and Management program, initiated by the former New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg in 2011. The program has already given $65 million to some 500 smaller organizations across theater, visual arts, music, film, literature and dance in New York, Boston, Chicago, Dallas, Detroit, Los Angeles and San Francisco.
“Small and midsize organizations tend to do extraordinarily good work at anchoring neighborhoods and communities,” Ms. Levin said. “The program comes out of Mike Bloomberg’s conviction that these organizations, which often don’t get the attention larger institutions do, are really essential to not only the creative community’s health but the health of cities.”
By invitation only, selected organizations are being offered unrestricted support — roughly 10 percent of their annual operating budgets — in addition to arts-management training. That includes a consulting mentor for each organization and a series of seminars for all grantees in a given city on topics such as fund-raising, strategic planning, marketing and board development.
“Part of the reason we fund city cohorts is that we’re trying to encourage the cultural communities to get better acquainted and bond,” Ms. Levin said. Each institution is asked to match 20 percent of the dollar amount it is given — a chance to put into practice some of the fund-raising tools offered through the program. In the previous round of grants, three-fourths of the organizations were able to surpass that 20 percent target, Ms. Levin said. “That’s a real, solid outcome that we think demonstrates the validity of the program.”
“Uchi is the starting point of Austin falling in love with everything Japanese,” said Otto Phan, the chef and owner of Kyoten Sushiko, an ambitious sushi restaurant in central Austin.
The food journalist Patricia Sharpe says Mr. Cole is responsible for rewiring Austin’s collective palate. “Had he been in Fort Worth, it might have happened there instead,” said Ms. Sharpe, who compared Japanese cuisine’s popularity in Austin to that of Mexican cooking in the 1970s, when she first started covering restaurants for Texas Monthly magazine.
It is impossible to tour Austin’s well-regarded sushi restaurants without running into chefs who have worked for or alongside Mr. Cole. Some, like Komé and Fukumoto Sushi & Yakitori Izakaya, offer a familiar menu of nigiri, sashimi and sushi rolls. Newer places like Kyoten Sushiko and Otoko, in the South Congress Hotel, are tiny destinations for intricate, expensive omakase.
And now, some kitchens are taking the next step: integrating Japanese cooking with the traditional foods of Texas.
Takuya Matsumoto and Tatsu Aikawa, chefs and business partners who opened Kemuri Tatsu-ya last year, are the leading lights of this new hybrid cuisine. Mr. Matsumoto, who is better known as Tako, calls the restaurant’s marriage of Texas smokehouse and Japanese bar food “a pretty good representation of us as Japanese Texans. It’s not that much different than Tex-Mex, really.”
Mr. Cole stepped up to the same task in early April, opening Loro, which he calls an Asian smokehouse. His collaborator is Aaron Franklin, the chef and owner of Franklin Barbecue, an Austin landmark where the hourslong lines that regularly form outside are nearly as famous as the brisket served inside.
While Mr. Cole’s restaurants in Austin, Houston and Dallas are based, albeit loosely, on the fundamentals of the Japanese sushi tradition, the menu at Loro is dominated by meat cooked in a hardwood smoker and paired with Asian-inspired sauces and sides. The space is designed in part to resemble a classic Texas dance hall. (Loro is the sixth restaurant operated by Hai Hospitality, Mr. Cole’s company, with a seventh, Uchi Denver, scheduled to open this summer.)
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Mr. Cole said the inspiration for Loro flowed from his belief that the signature cuisines of Japan and Texas are naturally compatible. “Slicing the meat to order, serving it directly to the customer,” he said. “It’s so similar to what we do with sushi.”
Mr. Franklin said, with a smile, that the restaurant will test Mr. Cole’s theory that Texas barbecue is, as Mr. Franklin put it, “the overcooked, red-meat version of sushi.”
Mr. Franklin, a 40-year-old former rock guitarist, is a partner in Loro as well as its resident barbecue expert. He led a recent tour of the space on South Lamar Boulevard, not far from the original Uchi, along with James Dumapit, 33, an Uchi and Uchiko veteran and Loro’s chef de cuisine.
“We’re definitely not going to stray too far from the central Texas tradition,” Mr. Dumapit said. “We’re not going to rub yellow curry over brisket, for example, because Aaron does brisket obviously very well.”
The credibility that Mr. Franklin provides Loro is fairly obvious. More complicated is the role that Mr. Cole, a white man born in Florida, has played in making Japanese food fashionable in this trend-conscious city.
Spurred by a passion for sushi that he acquired without leaving the state of Texas, Mr. Cole rose through the kitchens of Japanese-run restaurants in Austin, slowed but undeterred by the fact that he is not Japanese.
“You cannot make sushi because you are white,” Mr. Cole said he was told by the first boss he asked for permission to cut fish. A compromise was ultimately reached: Mr. Cole would roll sushi behind the kitchen’s closed door, where diners couldn’t see him.
After a year and a half, he was allowed to make sushi in front of customers. “But only at lunchtime,” he said. “My tip jar was full every day.”
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Mr. Cole is quick to credit the Japanese chefs he has labored alongside in Austin for sharing their expertise. Foremost among them is Mr. Fuse, the chef and owner of Musashino Sushi Dokoro, where Mr. Cole worked for more than seven years, starting in 1993.
Mr. Fuse demanded that Mr. Cole learn to speak, read and write Japanese as part of his culinary training. “I wouldn’t be where I am today if not for him,” Mr. Cole said of his mentor.
Mr. Fuse is held in high esteem by Austin chefs. Both Takehiro Asazu, of Komé, and Kazu Fukumoto, of Fukumoto Sushi, apprenticed under Mr. Fuse, who is known around town as Smokey.
He is also known to be reclusive. Mr. Fuse did not respond to repeated requests for an interview. Mr. Aikawa, a former pupil, relayed the chef’s response: “It’s not my style. I’m a ninja.”
Musashino, which moved to the city’s West Campus neighborhood in 2016 after 22 years at its original location, is where Mr. Cole developed the convention-busting style that lives on at Uchi. Mr. Cole’s signature dishes — like smoked yellowtail and Asian pear, or maguro and goat cheese — are often built on nontraditional pairings.
Kayo Asazu, 42, who owns Komé with her husband, Mr. Asazu, 44, says Mr. Cole made experimentation a distinguishing element of Japanese food in Austin.
“We didn’t see things like that in Japan,” she said. (The couple, who were born and raised in Japan, also operate two locations of the Japanese-style coffee shop Sa-Tén.)
Mr. Cole is not the only non-Japanese chef in Austin who has hitched his star to the country’s cuisine. Mr. Phan, of Kyoten Sushiko, was born in Houston to Vietnamese immigrants. Stacy Chen, who was born in Taiwan but moved to Austin as a child, modeled her new restaurant, Yoshi Ramen, on a shop her Taiwanese grandmother ran in Osaka.
Paul Qui, 37, a native of the Philippines, was executive chef of Uchiko when he won the ninth season of “Top Chef” in 2012, a star-making moment for both Mr. Qui and the Austin restaurant scene. He established his own aesthetic — pan-Asian, with a soft spot for sushi and Southeast Asian spices — with the food trucks and restaurants he opened in Austin and, more recently, Houston. (In 2016, Mr. Qui was arrested on charges of domestic violence, an incident that has cast a shadow over his empire and career; the case against him was recently dismissed, after the woman involved declined to serve as a witness.)
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Amanda Turner, 31, grew up in Dallas, “watching anime, wishing to go to Japan.” She said she felt she had “hit the jackpot” when she landed a job at Uchi while she was still in culinary school.
Today, Ms. Turner is chef de cuisine at Juniper, an Italian restaurant, but she is looking forward to this summer, when she’ll begin a three-month apprenticeship at the acclaimed Tokyo restaurant Nihonryori RyuGin.
When she returns to Austin, Ms. Turner said, she hopes to open a Japanese restaurant of her own. “There’s a lot of precedent for white men to take possession of another culture’s food,” she said. “I’m a black woman. I’d like to change that.”
Mr. Aikawa and Mr. Matsumoto, of Kemuri Tatsu-ya, don’t face those kinds of questions around cultural appropriation and Japanese food. Both chefs were raised in Austin’s tight-knit Japanese-American community — Mr. Aikawa, 36, was born in Tokyo, and Mr. Matsumoto, 38, is the son of Japanese immigrants — and gravitated to restaurant work to supplement their income as hip-hop D.J.s.
Both are sushi enthusiasts — they spoke over a platter of plum-mackerel and toro-radish rolls at Musashino, where Mr. Aikawa got his start. But a stint working at Urasawa, the Michelin-starred sushi restaurant in Beverly Hills, Calif., caused Mr. Aikawa to adjust his ambitions.
“I don’t want to run a restaurant where I’m charging, like, $1,000 a person,” he said.
Instead, he moved back to Austin to open Ramen Tatsu-ya with Mr. Matsumoto in 2012. They apply the discipline of the sushi bar to the broth-making in their ramen shop. It spawned a second location in 2015.
In recent years, the two chefs have become more comfortable with their natural instinct to blend the foods of Texas and Japan. On trips to Lockhart, a Texas barbecue mecca, Mr. Aikawa would bring his own rice and return with brisket to feed his staff.
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When the ramen entrepreneurs started brainstorming for a restaurant they planned to open inside a former barbecue joint in East Austin, they asked themselves, Mr. Aikawa said, “What if there was a Japanese guy in Texas 100 years ago? What would he be cooking at a roadhouse?”
The answer is Kemuri Tatsu-ya. The restaurant and bar, decorated with Texas flags, taxidermy and vintage signs in Japanese, is as much of a mashup as the food and drink. The menu includes sake, sochu and local craft beer; smoked fish collar, eel and gochujang-rubbed pork ribs; two types of brisket ramen; and beef tongue and chorizo tamales made with sticky rice.
Kemuri’s success — its owners have leases on two new Austin restaurant spaces — suggests that the city’s diners are plenty ready for whatever Loro has in store.
One might expect Mr. Franklin, the barbecue maven, to be wary of taking liberties with smoked meat, considering the stringently traditional fare on which he built his reputation. The only sides on Franklin Barbecue’s menu (coleslaw, potato salad, pinto beans) are absent from Loro’s, supplanted by dishes like coconut-scented rice and papaya salad.
At Franklin Barbecue, he said, “there would be anarchy in the streets if we changed anything or tried to get fancy.”
But Mr. Franklin is also a product of Austin’s cross-cultural forces. He appears energized by the opportunity to recast his smoked meats with shishito salsa verde and house-made hoisin.
Though the meat at Loro is “super traditional, just salt and pepper,” Mr. Franklin added, there is freedom for his partners “to do what they do, making really rad sides and sauces. We just meet in the middle.”
During that quick head movement, Mr. Cooper’s nose seems to disappear — evidence, Mr. Jones said, that the interview with Ms. De La Rosa was conducted in a studio. In reality, the glitch is known as a compression artifact, a distortion that is common in video encoding.
Mr. Jones suggests it means they are both actors. “When he turns, his nose disappears repeatedly because the green screen isn’t set right,” he said.
A few months later, in June, Mr. Jones was profiled on NBC’s “Sunday Night With Megyn Kelly,” which brought up his past comments about Sandy Hook. Ms. Kelly also interviewed Mr. Heslin, who recalled seeing his dead son.
“I held my son with a bullet hole through his head,” Mr. Heslin told her.
But a week later in an Infowars video, Owen Shroyer, who works for the site, argued that it was “not possible” that Mr. Heslin held his dead son because the medical examiner said he showed photographs to the parents to identify their children.
“Will there be a clarification from Heslin or Megyn Kelly?” Mr. Shroyer said. “I wouldn’t hold your breath.”
The next month, Mr. Jones replayed part of that Infowars video on his show. “The stuff I found was they never let them see their bodies,” Mr. Jones said. “That’s kind of what’s weird about this. But maybe they did.”
In a rambling 10-minute response published on Infowars on Tuesday, Mr. Jones said that his lawyers were very confident that these lawsuits were frivolous because his efforts to discuss both sides of the issue were misunderstood and misrepresented by major media outlets.
“It is every American’s right to question any big event, especially when it’s seized on to take the basic liberties of Americans,” he said, referring to the Second Amendment.
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Mr. Jones also said that the parents of the murdered children were victims being “roped into this” by Ms. Kelly and the media.
“I’ve been telling the parents for years I believe their children died, and quite frankly, they know that,” he said. “I’m sorry they died, but I didn’t kill them and gun owners in American did not kill your children,” he continued. “I believe Sandy Hook happened.”
Mr. Shroyer did not immediately respond to an email seeking comment on Tuesday morning.
Both lawsuits were filed in Travis County District Court in Austin, Tex., where Mr. Jones lives, broadcasts his show and operates Infowars. The parents are seeking at least $1 million in damages.
“The statements were a continuation and elaboration of a yearslong campaign to falsely attack the honesty of the Sandy Hook parents, casting them as participants in a ghastly conspiracy and cover-up,” the parents’ lawsuits said.
The parents are represented by Mark D. Bankston, a Houston lawyer who filed a similar defamation lawsuit this month against Mr. Jones and Infowars after they falsely identified a Massachusetts man as the gunman at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Fla.
Last June, a Florida woman who believes the Sandy Hook shooting was a hoax was sentenced to five months in prison for making death threats against Mr. Pozner in voice mail messages and emails.
“It’s a weird thing, and I’m surprised,” Mr. House said. “I need to find out, how did he pick his subject?”
Mayor Steve Adler of Austin said that investigators were continuing to churn through evidence. Law enforcement officials said that Mr. Conditt left behind evidence of potential future targets before he died, but that they appeared to have no connection to one another.
Mr. House said that Mr. Conditt’s death left him feeling “numb but relieved,” and also wondering if there were accomplices. “I just can’t grasp that a 23-year-old home-schooled guy put together his devices,” he said of Mr. Conditt, who was raised in an evangelical family in Austin’s northern suburbs. “I really, really question how did he select his subjects.”
At a news conference on Saturday, Manley, the interim police chief, said investigators were leaving open the possibility of questioning Mr. Conditt’s two roommates again, and added that more arrests in the case could still be made.
“This investigation continues,” Mr. Manley said.
On Thursday, Sean Philips, a neighbor of Anthony Stephan House, posted what he called a “dark and gory” account of the attack on Facebook.
Mr. Philips woke up his children to get them ready for school, and then heard, at 6:50 a.m., a sound like a truck slamming into a dumpster.
“I immediately ran outside to see what it was. I looked to the left and saw my next-door neighbor, Stephan, (who also happens to be the father of my daughter’s best friend) standing, covered in blood, with shrapnel lodged all throughout his body and his hands nearly blown off,” he wrote. “His face had a large gash on the lower side, it looked as if he was hit with an ax. He had a glazed over look on his face, but his eyes were open. Within five seconds, he looked at me and collapsed onto his side.”
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Mr. Philips said he had administered rescue breaths, but could not perform chest compressions because Mr. House’s body was full of shrapnel.
“All around me, the neighborhood was in utter chaos, but I heard not a sound other than the sound of his gurgling blood,” he wrote. “Meanwhile, there were screaming neighbors, and worse, the screams of “My daddy is dead! My daddy is dead!” coming from his little angel who saw him like that.”
Later, he wrote, he was questioned by the police as if he were a potential suspect. He wrote of the mental and emotional trauma that plagued him afterward. Even though the police have not tendered a motive, Mr. Philips assumed that Mr. Conditt had been motivated by the conservative political beliefs he had espoused in a blog several years ago.
“Here is the headline I would like to see: 23-year-old conservative Christian turns his hatred and judgments into a murderous bombing spree,” Mr. Philips wrote.
Frustration, in recent days, has been more evident than clarity or consensus. The owner of the Pflugerville barber shop, Delton Southern, told the Austin American-Statesman that he thought the presence of both victim and perpetrator in his shop was a coincidence. Mr. Southern, who is black, also told the paper that Mr. Conditt’s presence in his shop seemed to work against the theory that the attacks were fueled by racism.
“If he was a white supremacist he wouldn’t have come in here,” he said.
On Saturday morning, the barber shop was doing a brisk business with a largely African-American clientele, and Mr. Southern sternly gave notice that he was through conducting interviews.
“I have nothing left to say,” he said. “I’m trying to run a business.”
More than 25 miles southwest of Pflugerville, in the wealthy and predominately white neighborhood where two young men were injured by Conditt’s tripwire bomb on March 18, a no-trespassing sign was posted on a tree outside the family home of one of the victims, William Grote III.
“Do not enter or come upon this private property,” the sign declared. “We have no comment.”
Brad Napp, a next-door neighbor, said the family seemed grateful to be alive. “Why were they hit by the bomb?”
Mr. Napp said there appeared to have been no ties between Mr. Conditt and the two men. And there was no indication, he said, “that they crossed paths at any time.”
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He thought that Mr. Conditt had chosen the neighborhood randomly. He noted that it had few security cameras and was close to two major freeways, allowing an intruder to “very quickly” enter the neighborhood, commit an act of destruction and then flee, he said. “They could be up to 60 miles per hour in two minutes,” Mr. Napp said.
In East Austin Saturday, Jesse E. Washington warmly recalled Mr. Conditt’s second victim, 17-year-old Draylen Mason, whom Mr. Washington had watched grow from boyhood. Draylen was a student of martial arts from an early age, Mr. Washington said, which had instilled in him “self-control and respect.”
Draylen’s other passion was music. He played the piano and the bass, and had just been accepted to the prestigious Oberlin Conservatory of Music. He was killed by one of Mr. Conditt’s package bombs on March 12, when his mother brought it from the front porch to the kitchen. His mother was also injured in the blast.
Mr. Washington said he knew the family was struggling.
“They’re just so torn up about it they don’t know which way to go or what to think,” he said.
Though Austin is widely seen as a liberal island in a deeply conservative state, the attacks have stoked the raw racial, economic, political and geographical divisions that continue to shape life here, 90 years after the city was segregated by decree. Austin and its suburbs remain sharply divided by class, race and even religion. Like Houston, it is an urban, diverse and Democratic hub surrounded by largely white, Republican suburbs, including Pflugerville, Mr. Conditt’s hometown.
“Austin has gradually started to become aware and conversant about its race issues over the past five years, so the initial suggestion that these bombings could be race-related made people deeply nervous that the problem could be that bad,” said Cecilia Ballí, a writer and cultural anthropologist who lived in Austin from 2008 to 2014 and who now lives in Houston. “Whether or not the bomber’s motive ends up being race, this brought to the forefront one of the city’s challenges and worst fears.”
The police have said that Mr. Conditt, who is white, gave no indication in a 25-minute confession left on his phone that he was driven by racial hatred. News emerged Thursday that one of the explosive packages he sent at a FedEx store was addressed to a spa employee who is white. His past statements, including the views he expressed on a community college blog opposed to gay marriage, have added to speculation that he was anti-gay.
In East Austin on Thursday, Daniel Arriaga, 51, a furniture mover, said he still believed the bomber had a hatred for blacks and Hispanics. He had harmed the two white victims, Mr. Arriaga theorized, “just to throw it off.”
Alejandro Caceres, 30, an organizer for Grassroots Leadership, a prison reform and immigrant rights group, who lives and works in East Austin, said he believed the police were dismissing the concerns of black and Hispanic residents that the bombings were, at least in part, racially motivated.
“We’re being told that all of our feelings and our realities are not true, that this person was not targeting black and brown people, that this person was not a terrorist,” Mr. Caceres said.
Mr. Conditt’s world was, like the Austin region itself, multifaceted and defied easy categorization. In his hometown Pflugerville, about 20 miles northeast of Austin, the mayor, Victor Gonzales, is Hispanic. One of the candidates who ran against him was Philip Emiabata, who was born in Nigeria. One of Mr. Conditt’s roommates was black. And one of his friends was Sierra Davis, a transgender woman and Marine veteran who is part Hispanic.
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“Honestly, Mark was a lot like I was,” said Ms. Davis, 23, who got to know Mr. Conditt when they were teenagers. “He was a home schooler, Christian, and I was the same. I mean, we were all awkward at the time. Growing up, Pflugerville had a small-town feel to it. It was a lot more conservative than Austin, a lot more home-school friendly.”
Ms. Davis said that Mr. Conditt told her she was “going to hell” when she was transitioning. “But I wasn’t surprised by what he said,” she said. “We were raised like that and I was tied to those beliefs, too.”
In Austin, I-35 has long been recognized as the dividing line separating most of the city’s minority residents from its white population, and much of its have-nots from the haves. That dividing line has an ugly, decades-old history. In an online examination of the city’s racial and economic divide by The Austin American-Statesman, a real estate ad circa 1915 reads: “Hyde Park is exclusively for white people.”
Jesse E. Washington, 68, a retired city inspector who is black and was born and raised in Austin, lives in a small ranch house his parents built in the 1960s in East Austin. He graduated from a segregated high school in 1967.
“If you wanted to buy a home and own property in Austin, you could only get your utilities turned on if you were in East Austin,” Mr. Washington said.
Now, of course, East Austin is far different.
“If you walk up and down here you see the white kids walking their dogs and riding bicycles,” he said. Many of his black neighbors, he said, “have sold off.”
Mr. Washington lives next door to the scene of one of the explosions, the one that killed Draylen Mason, 17, an African-American classical musician whose grandfather was a well-known dentist. The blast woke Mr. Washington around 6:45 a.m. that morning. At first he thought it was a falling tree limb.
Mr. Washington listened with interest to the police chief’s description of Mr. Conditt’s confession. But he said he still wonders if race had something to do with it.
“You know, the possibilities are endless,” he said. “These mental conditions that are in our minds growing up, the influences people have from the older generations.”
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Black leaders and residents have accused the police of failing to take the first bombing seriously because the victim was black, an accusation that police officials have denied. At the time of the first bombing on March 2, the authorities believed it was in retaliation for a drug raid the police had conducted on a similar-looking house on the same street three days beforehand.
“We had a pretty strong working theory that day that led us to believe it was an isolated incident that day,” the Austin police chief, Brian Manley, told reporters recently. “It was very unique. We had no information to believe it was related to a larger plan at that time.”
The bombings have come at a critical time for the city’s black population. A 2014 University of Texas report highlighted the drastic decline in the number of black residents in Austin, even as the city has boomed. Austin’s overall population growth rate was more than 20 percent between 2000 and 2010, making it the third-fastest growing city in the country. But the number of African-American residents declined by 5.4 percent — making it the only one of the 10 fastest-growing cities in the United States to experience a loss in black population.
It was the result, the researchers wrote, of “persistent structural inequalities.” The emerging tech industry was not hiring black and Latino residents. People of color were losing trust in the public schools on the traditionally black east side.
Ms. Houston, the city councilwoman, said she now occasionally feels unwelcome in restaurants in the east side neighborhoods where she grew up, and which are becoming whiter.
“As a black female they look at me like, ‘Why is she here?’” she said.
Race has played out here in the backdrop of the case in other ways. KVUE, an ABC-affiliated TV station in Austin, issued an apology, after the words “this monkey” appeared in a sentence about Mr. Mason during its breaking-news coverage of the bombings. KVUE’s closed-captioning provider, VITAC, issued its own apology and said the error was “not intentional.”
KVUE said it had severed ties with VITAC “due to the terrible mistake.”
Chief Brian Manley of the Austin Police Department said that Mr. Conditt had made a 25-minute recording in which he discussed the bombs and how he had made them. The recording, Chief Manley said, was “the outcry of a very challenged young man talking about challenges in his personal life that led him to this point.”
In Pflugerville, authorities swarmed a home where Mr. Conditt had been living with two roommates, a location that Gov. Greg Abbott told reporters could contain a “treasure trove” about the suspect’s motives and methods.
The roommates were detained for questioning, and one had been released by Wednesday afternoon, according to the Austin Police Department.
Investigators also searched the nearby home of Mr. Conditt’s parents, including several backyard sheds on their property, but had not found any explosive devices by Wednesday afternoon. Det. David Fugitt, a homicide detective with the Austin police, told reporters that the Conditt family was cooperating.
“We don’t have any information to believe that the family had any knowledge of these events,” Detective Fugitt said. “They’re having a difficult time. This is certainly a shock to the conscience.”
Family friends, neighbors and former classmates were at a loss to explain why Mr. Conditt had carried out the attacks, how he had learned about bomb-making or whether he was driven by racial animus. The first bombs hit members of African-American families who were well known locally, killing a 17-year-old boy and a 39-year-old man. Mr. Conditt was white.
Mr. Conditt grew up as the quiet, socially awkward oldest child of a devout Christian family that held Bible study groups in their white clapboard house, where an American flag hangs from the front porch.
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After Mr. Conditt, 23, was identified on Wednesday as the serial bomber who killed two people and terrorized Texas’ capital, Mr. Conditt’s mother sent a text message to a friend, Donna Sebastian Harp. It said: “Pray for our family. We are under attack” — a reference to a spiritual assault.
“It’s a Christian-ese thing we say,” Ms. Harp said. “Pray: the situation is very serious.”
Governor Abbott told the television station KXAN that Mr. Conditt did not have a criminal record, had not served in the military and was unemployed. He said it appeared that Mr. Conditt had acted alone, but authorities had not definitively ruled out whether he had any accomplices.
In 2012, Mr. Conditt hashed out some of his views on a blog that he created for a political science class while he was a student at Austin Community College. Jessica Vess, a college spokeswoman, said that Mr. Conditt had attended from 2010 to 2012 as a business administration major.
McKenna McIntosh, who was in the political science class with Mr. Conditt, said that the views on his blog — called Defining My Stance — were as “clear as day.” In an author bio on the site, Mr. Conditt described himself as a conservative but said he was “not that politically inclined.” His six posts, which date from January to March 2012, include arguments in favor of the death penalty, against the legalization of same-sex marriage and in support of the end of sex offender registries.
The blog does not discuss Mr. Conditt’s views on guns or gun control, but Ms. McIntosh said that the topic was often discussed, and that she did not recall Mr. Conditt ever advocating violence. She also said she did not recall any class discussions involving Mr. Conditt’s views on race.
In his profile for the blog, Mr. Conditt wrote: “The reasons I am taking this class is because I want to understand the US government, and I hope that it will help me clarify my stance, and then defend it.”
Pamela Crouch, who home-schools her children in Pflugerville and has known the Conditts for several years, said her family attended a Bible study group at the Conditt home in the early 2000s, when both families belonged to a small evangelical church, Grace, that has since shut down.
Ms. Crouch said the church had an economically and racially diverse congregation. She described the family as “lovely people” and said that Mr. Conditt’s mother did some work outside the home as well as home-school their four children.
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Real estate records show that Mr. Conditt and his father, William Conditt, bought what a neighbor described as a 1950s-era house together in Pflugerville in 2017, and a neighbor and family friend said the younger Mr. Conditt and his father had been remodeling it.
“They treated it as a rebuilding, bonding project over the course of a year,” said Mark Roessler, 57, who lives across the street. He described the son as courteous, unassuming and very quiet.
Other neighbors said they saw little of the younger Mr. Conditt.
“I think he was pretty much a loner,” said Jay Schulze, a network engineer who lived about two blocks down, adding that Mr. Conditt spent most of his time with his parents.
Mr. Conditt worked for a local manufacturer, Crux Manufacturing, for about four years until he was fired this past August after he failed to meet job expectations, the company told a local television station, KVUE.
Katie Burke, a receptionist at Platinum Gymnastics in Pflugerville, said Mr. Conditt had also worked for the gym around 2012, when the gym was under different management at a separate location in Round Rock, Tex.
Jeff Reeb, 75, a neighbor of Mr. Conditt’s parents, said the Conditts had never expressed concerns about their son to him.
“I can tell you nothing about him personally, except that he was a nice, young kid,” Mr. Reeb said. “He always seemed like he was smart. And he always seemed like he was very polite.”
Mr. Reeb added: “My summation is it doesn’t make any sense.”
By the end of the day Wednesday, police had another tool: A 25-minute confession, left on the suspect’s phone, in which he attempted to describe his odyssey. “It is the outcry of a very challenged young man talking about challenges in his personal life that led him to this point,” the Austin police chief, Brian Manley, said.
Interviews with political leaders briefed on the inquiry, along with briefings from investigators and a federal law enforcement source, shed light on an investigation that saw hundreds of federal agents descend on Austin, gathering and reconstructing bomb fragments, interviewing witnesses and gathering video footage. “We haven’t seen an effort like this in many, many years,” said Christopher H. Combs, special agent in charge of the F.B.I.’s office in San Antonio.
Officials said Mr. Conditt planted one bomb in the upscale Travis Country neighborhood of Austin on Sunday, and tied the bomb’s tripwire to a “Caution: Children At Play” sign — which he himself put next to the sidewalk and that he bought, along with four others, at Home Depot. Investigators used his cellphone data to put him at the scene of explosions in Austin and also got his Google search history. But officials said the crucial first break came when Mr. Conditt mailed the packages at the FedEx store earlier this week.
Representative Michael McCaul, Republican of Texas, said that when Mr. Conditt left the FedEx office, he got into pickup that had been called in by others as potential leads. “And then they got the license plate and from there were able to get the cellphone number,” he said, adding that from there, agents could track the cellphone directly, “as a location device.”
Mr. Conditt’s suicide left more questions than answers about who he was, how he became a bomb-maker and why he did it. But Chief Manley seemed to assuage worries about more bombs when he said all seven had been counted for. Law enforcement officials had worried that Mr. Conditt might have placed or sent additional bombs in the hours before he died. And officials said they were still looking into whether Mr. Conditt had any accomplices.
In the Austin suburb of Pflugerville, where Mr. Conditt grew up and lived, a steady fear persisted throughout the day, even after his death. Neighbors were forced to evacuate from the area surrounding the house Mr. Conditt shared with two roommates after investigators found explosive materials here. They were allowed to return late in the day.
The Austin police said they had questioned Mr. Conditt’s two roommates. One had been released; the other was still being questioned as of Wednesday afternoon. Neither roommate was identified. Outside Mr. Conditt’s parents home in Pflugerville, Detective David Fugitt with the Austin police said Mr. Conditt’s family was cooperating and was allowing investigators to search the property, including several backyard sheds.
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“We don’t have any information to believe that the family had any knowledge of these events,” Detective Fugitt said.
Pflugerville is a tranquil Austin suburb nearly 20 miles northeast. It is a spacious town of 59,000 that has long made its unusual name with the silent first letter part of its charm, as visitors notice when they pass such businesses as Pfast Lube. At times on Wednesday, Mr. Conditt’s hometown was transformed. Military-style SWAT vehicles sped down the wide avenues. Neighbors and friends said they were stunned that Mr. Conditt was the serial bomber.
“He always seemed like he was very polite,” said Jeff Reeb, 75, who has lived next door to Mr. Conditt’s parents for about 17 years. “It’s extremely shocking. My summation is it doesn’t make any sense. It just doesn’t make any sense, which, most of these things like this, don’t make any sense.”
Mr. Conditt was a home-schooled student who had attended Austin Community College. He described himself on a blog as “not that politically inclined” but expressed conservative views on issues like gay marriage and the death penalty. Friends and neighbors described him as a loner.
“He was a nerd, always reading, devouring books and computers and things like that,” said Donna Sebastian Harp, who had known the Conditt family for nearly 18 years. “He was always kind of quiet.”
The attacks began when a package bomb detonated on the porch of an Austin home, killing Anthony Stephan House, 39. That was followed 10 days later by two bombs that were found outside homes, one of which killed a 17-year-old man.
The first three bombs were apparently detonated when they were picked up or jostled. Later, on Sunday, a package bomb exploded in the Travis Country neighborhood, set off by the tripwire. The fifth explosion occurred at a FedEx center in Schertz, Tex., outside San Antonio on Tuesday. Another bomb, this one unexploded, was found at another FedEx facility in Austin the same day.
“We do not understand what motivated him to do what he did,” Chief Manley told reporters.
In a mere 19 days, the bombing sprees sparked fear across the Austin and San Antonio regions of Central Texas, evoking the nowhere-is-safe quality of the anthrax mailings of 2001 and the Washington sniper attacks of 2002. For a young man of 23 who did not complete a degree from Austin Community College, his devices and shifting methods as a serial bomber left some of the country’s most experienced federal explosives experts baffled early on in the investigation.
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And yet, that change in his tactics is largely what led police to him.
His first three bombs were hidden in packages that were not mailed but instead placed on people’s doorsteps. His fourth was set off using a tripwire across the Travis Country sidewalk. But his fifth was different — he shipped it from the FedEx store, which captured him on security video, wearing a baseball cap and a black T-shirt and standing at a counter, in addition to other surveillance video from the area. He shipped two package bombs there, and when one of them accidentally exploded at a FedEx center in the town of Schertz outside San Antonio, investigators traced the shipments back to the FedEx store, and, ultimately, to him.
After that explosion at the FedEx facility in Schertz, investigators had turned Mr. Conditt from a person of interest into the primary suspect. “Maybe for about 24 hours before his death, they were able to closely monitor him and his movements,” Gov. Greg Abbott told reporters.
Mr. Conditt’s vehicle was traced to a hotel in Round Rock, just north of Austin, Chief Manley said, where a SWAT team surreptitiously surrounded the hotel and called other specialized units.
But the suspect drove away before those teams could arrive. Officers followed the suspect, who stopped in a ditch off Interstate 35, and SWAT officers approached the vehicle on foot.
“The suspect detonated a bomb inside of the vehicle, knocking one officer back” and slightly injuring him, the police chief said. Another officer fired his gun at the vehicle. And investigators began the long process of trying to find the answer that wasn’t in thesurveillance video: Why.
With six devices probably tied to the case and no arrests yet, panicky residents have flooded 911 with more than 1,200 suspicious-package calls since March 12. Still, with every new bomb discovered, the evidence grows and, investigators hope, the space between the hunter and the hunted narrows ever so slightly.
The explosions — the fifth and latest was at a FedEx center near San Antonio early Tuesday morning — do not destroy evidence of the bombs’ origins so much as blast it into many bits and pieces. DNA and other more technical fingerprints can remain. Switches, relays and homemade circuit boards often survive. If the explosive was contained in a pipe, then the inside walls of that pipe, even in tiny fragments, will be smudged with residue from the explosive it held, experts say.
Specialists from the federal Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives who are working the case have honed their skills, and their eyes, for years. The A.T.F. has long run a five-day “post-blast investigator” course for law enforcement around the country. Typically, once the classroom portion of the course has ended, the agency will blow up a car on a demolition range using a real car bomb, and the students will comb the range afterward for parts and pieces of the device that exploded.
At the scene of the first package explosion in Austin, a red brick house on Haverford Drive in northeast Austin where the first victim, Anthony Stephan House, 39, was killed, a large chunk of the white-painted wall next to the plywood-covered front door has been removed, probably by investigators who want to recover minuscule bomb fragments from it.
“The Unabomber put ‘FC,’ which stood for Freedom Club, on his bombs, so the investigators will be looking for any signatures that could give them some investigatory leads,” said Clinton R. Van Zandt, a former profiler with the F.B.I. who worked on the case. The bomber, Theodore Kaczynski, was a mathematics professor turned recluse whose crudely fashioned bombs killed three people and injured 24 others over a 17-year period beginning in 1978.
One new potential block of evidence emerged on Tuesday from the Austin bomber’s use of FedEx.
The package that exploded shortly after midnight Tuesday at the FedEx center in Schertz, outside San Antonio, was shipped from the Austin area and was bound for Austin as well. Another suspicious package discovered on Tuesday also was shipped via FedEx, and it, too, contained explosive material, a law enforcement official said.
Both packages were mailed from a FedEx store in Sunset Valley, a small city within Austin, and a statement from FedEx suggested that they were sent by the same person.
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The second package was turned over intact to law enforcement, marking the first time investigators will get their hands on one of the serial bomber’s unexploded devices. They may also be able to get video images of the person who shipped it.
“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.
Tuesday illustrated the shifting, fast-paced tempo of the case. Austin police called in a bomb squad at the FedEx center near Austin-Bergstrom International Airport, where the unexploded package was found. The facility remained sealed off hours later as police and federal agents continued hunting for clues.
“We are still investigating,” Austin police spokeswoman Destiny Winston told reporters at the scene.
In the span of 18 days this month, the case has unfolded at five explosion sites in two cities, and prompted neighborhood lockdowns in Austin and operational disruptions at three FedEx facilities.
The explosion at the FedEx site in Schertz, which caused a worker to complain of ringing in the ear, signaled yet another shift in tactics for the bomber.
The first three devices were in packages that were left on doorsteps, but the fourth was triggered by a tripwire strung across a sidewalk. The fifth was the first to have been shipped. Investigators have said the bomber had to possess some level of skill to build and transport devices without them blowing up prematurely. It appeared that the blast on Tuesday represented, for the bomber, a premature detonation.
Homemade package bombs delivered to homes and offices have become surprisingly common. Since 1990, dozens of men, women and children have been wounded or killed in package bombings around the country, in explosions that were not connected to the Unabomber case. The culprit, in many of those cases, was an ex-husband, an ex-boyfriend, a stalker or a relative seeking revenge or an inheritance.
The frequency of the attacks illustrates just how easy it has become for a person with no explosives training to make and deliver a package bomb. According to A.T.F.’s most recent public report on bomb incidents, there were 439 bombings in 2016, up from 400 the year before.
In January 2000, in the Boston suburb of Everett, Sandra Berfield, a 32-year-old waitress, was killed after she opened a package containing a pipe bomb that was left on her doorstep. A handyman who had stalked her for years, Steven S. Caruso, was convicted in her murder. The authorities said he used a readily available toy rocket-launcher component in his bomb. He had put her sister’s return address on the package to make sure his target opened it.
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In Austin, investigators may have more clues to work with than the bomb-maker might expect.
“A bomber often believes that the device itself is consumed in the thermal effect of the blast, and that he is giving himself distance from the criminal act,” said a federal agent and explosives expert who spoke on condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to speak to the media. “They think they have autonomy, but they don’t.”
Investigators now are going so far as to reconstruct the bombs that exploded, using similar materials. “Each one of these devices is being rebuilt to help investigators figure out what they are looking for,” the federal agent explained. “It is like putting a puzzle together.”
Ed Davis, the former Boston police chief, who has been involved in investigating several bombings including the Boston Marathon bombing in 2013, said rebuilding the bombs was critical in that case.
“It helps them determine the sophistication of the device and the level of expertise involved in building it,” Mr. Davis said. “Then it limits the number of people you are looking at. It provides a certain class of possible suspects.”
Bomb experts and those who study serial killers said the search for clues is time-consuming and complex, but far from impossible. Some said it was clear that the Austin bomber had already built the devices in advance before launching the first attack, because the use of different triggering mechanisms takes time. Others said the suspect or suspects had shown a major vulnerability: By dropping off the packages themselves or shipping them at FedEx, they exposed themselves or their vehicles to being captured on surveillance video or seen by witnesses.
Then there is the shrapnel. The first four devices that exploded in Austin contained shrapnel — small metal pieces like nails that are included in a bomb to make it wreak more havoc on people who are nearby when it goes off.
“Shrapnel is critical to this analysis,” said Mr. Van Zandt, the former F.B.I. profiler. “If investigators look at the shrapnel from all five devices and see the same kind of nails or ball bearings, for instance, that would connect the devices to the same bomb builder. Investigators could then canvass hardware stores in Austin, or all over Texas for that matter, looking for someone who bought quantities of these things.”
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The locations of the explosions is also significant. All of the four bombings in Austin occurred in residential neighborhoods near highways and major thoroughfares, suggesting to investigators that the suspect may be doing significant getaway planning and may not even live in Austin. Investigators have sought home security camera footage that could help solve the case.
Law enforcement officials have taken the unusual step of speaking directly to the suspect or suspects at news conferences, asking them to call 911 to talk to the police and explain the message behind the attacks. Mr. Van Zandt said that for some serial bombers, such an invitation may be hard to resist. But he added that there was another benefit to such communication between the hunters and the hunted.
“If we give them an opportunity to talk, they are not bombing,” he said.
At a news conference before Sunday’s explosion, the Austin police made a rare public appeal for the bomber or bombers responsible for the three earlier explosions to contact the police so officials could learn more about the “message” behind the attacks.
“These events in Austin have garnered worldwide attention, and we assure you that we are listening,” the Austin police chief, Brian Manley, said in addressing the unknown bomber or bombers at the news conference. “We want to understand what brought you to this point, and we want to listen to you.”
Chief Manley told reporters that he hoped the person or people responsible were watching, and that they would get in touch by calling 911 or reaching out online. He said investigators had not established a motive for the explosive packages.
“There’s the message behind what’s happening in our community, and we’re not going to understand that until the suspect or suspects reaches out to us to talk to us about what that message was,” Chief Manley said. “We still do not know what ideology may be behind this and what the motive was behind this.”
Before Sunday, three separate bombings this month in the eastern and northeastern parts of the city left two people dead and a third seriously wounded. In each case, the victims handled packages that were left on their doorsteps and were outfitted with homemade but sophisticated explosive devices.
Officials said the first bombing, on Haverford Drive on March 2, and two more on March 12, on Oldfort Hill Drive and Galindo Street, were connected. None of the packages were mailed. Instead, they were apparently placed directly near the doors of homes for the victims to find. In two cases, the bombs detonated when the victims picked them up; in the third, the package exploded after it had been carried inside and opened.
More than 500 federal agents are assisting the investigation from agencies including the F.B.I. and the A.T.F. Fred Milanowski, the A.T.F. special agent in charge of its Houston division, said he believed that the same person built all three devices.
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“Every bomber that makes these leaves a signature,” Mr. Milanowski said. “Obviously, once they find something successful for them, they don’t want to deviate from that because they don’t want something to blow up on them.”
Mr. Milanowski said a degree of skill was required to assemble, transport and deliver the devices without an accidental explosion. He declined to identify the materials that were used to make them.
“It wouldn’t be a typical household that would have all these components, but I would say that all the components are commercially available,” he said.
Since March 12, the day when two bombings occurred, anxious residents have reported hundreds of suspicious packages to the authorities; Austin police officers have responded to 735 such calls. Officials have continued to urge residents to call 911 if they receive a package that they were not expecting and that did not appear to have been delivered by the Postal Service or a legitimate commercial service like U.P.S. or FedEx.
Law enforcement officials said they were looking for possible links to similar residential package bombings across the country.
“The scope goes beyond just Austin,” said a law enforcement official who spoke on condition of anonymity to discuss a continuing investigation. “We’re looking for anyone that could have been involved in making bombs in the past in Texas, and really anywhere in the United States.”
Asked at the news conference whether investigators were looking for links to bombings elsewhere, Chief Manley said they were pursuing all avenues. “We are not going to rule anything out until we have a reason to rule it out,” he said, “because when we do that, it narrows our focus and we may limit considering things that we should be considering.”
Over the past 30 years or so, package bombings have killed or wounded more than two dozen people across the country, excluding those connected to the Unabomber case. Many of the attacks have been solved by the authorities; they often stemmed from domestic disputes, and sometimes involved pipe bombs in packages wrapped like holiday presents.
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The bombings in Austin have alarmed black leaders because the two people killed were African-American and the seriously wounded victim was a 75-year-old Hispanic woman. Law enforcement officials said that they did not have conclusive evidence that race played a role in the bombings, but that they were continuing to explore the possibility.
Investigators are examining connections between the two black victims, who both belonged to prominent African-American families. Officials said investigators were also looking into the possibility that the bomb that wounded the Hispanic woman may have been intended for someone else, but that nothing definitive had been established.
Chief Manley said on Sunday that the combined rewards offered for information leading to an arrest and conviction in the case had been increased to $115,000, from $65,000.
A concert featuring the Roots that was part of the South by Southwest festival in Austin was canceled on Saturday after the concert venue received a bomb threat in an email, the authorities said. No device was found, and the police later arrested a man on a charge of making a terroristic threat. The police said the man, Trevor Weldon Ingram, 26, was not a suspect in the package bombings.