What was the Austin bomber thinking? Update: Used "exotic" batteries

I don’t mean “What was his motive?” I mean, what was he doing waltzing into a FedEx looking like this, knowing that 500 federal and state cops were looking for him? I can’t get over these photos.

He’s wearing gloves! And not because of the weather, obviously, since he’s wearing a t-shirt too. He had to suspect that FedEx had a surveillance camera set up somewhere. (He could have gone in beforehand and cased the place to make sure.) He also had to know that even if his bombs reached their targets and detonated, the cops would figure out that they had been sent via FedEx and would be able to trace them back to where they were sent from. Then it’d be a matter of cueing up the surveillance video and finding this goon sticking out like a sore thumb, probably the only person to come through the door that day wearing something on his hands that would hide his fingerprints. At a bare minimum, they would have had a clerk to interview who had stared the bomber right in the face.

And then there’s the ballcap and that striking mop of platinum blonde hair, which sure looks like a wig. The guy was basically wearing a “criminal suspect” costume. Why did he give them such a strong lead in figuring out who he was? Right, he had to do something to make sure he didn’t leave fingerprints on the packages, but that misses the point. His previous M.O. of quickly dropping packages on people’s doorsteps and driving away was much more insidious. Why’d he decide to start mail-bombing without a better plan to obscure his identity than this?

Doesn’t FedEx have “drop boxes” that let you send a package without interacting with a person?

Here’s the monster, by the way. This photo is five years old but it shows that his hair isn’t naturally blonde. He really might have worn a wig — a bad wig — to FedEx.

The most unusual thing about him is his lack of an Internet footprint. I googled him when his name was first revealed and got nothing at all pre-bombing. “There are very few public social media posts under his name,” reports the Austin American-Statesman. The Vegas madman didn’t leave an Internet trail either but he was from a different generation, in his early 60s. The Austin bomber had an unusual degree of anonymity for someone who grew up in the social-media age.

I’m curious to know now what name he gave at FedEx when asked to provide a return address. Was there a clue in the alias he used? (He must have used an alias. I think.) Was he trying to get caught? The easy explanation for why he chanced it at FedEx is that his previous plan of leaving packages in the dead of night had become too risky. The whole city was looking for mysterious packages now. Cops were patrolling, searching for people driving around neighborhoods at odd hours. He might have been caught if he stuck to the old plan. That explains why he’d shift to a new one but it doesn’t explain why he’d shift to the FedEx one. You’d expect him to escalate by targeting crowds, e.g., by leaving a device in a backpack in a crowded area. Maybe he thought the mail route would work because it took the feds so many years to find Ted Kaczynski. Oops.

By the way, there may be as yet undiscovered bombs still floating around. Exit quotation: “Late Tuesday, Texas Department of Public Safety troopers were dispatched to two homes in the Cedar Park area to check the front porch and to notify residents that they may be in danger.”

Update: To repeat: What was he thinking?

“Exotic” batteries ordered online helped lead authorities to the Austin, Texas, bombing suspect before he died early Wednesday as police closed in, multiple senior law enforcement officials told NBC News…

The unusual batteries were the signature trait that allowed investigators to so quickly link the various explosives to Conditt, sources said. One senior law enforcement official said the batteries came from Asia.

“These weren’t your store-bought Duracells,” another law enforcement official said.

The American-Statesman reported earlier today that “Authorities also relied upon store receipts showing suspicious transactions from the person” to apprehend the bomber. Purchases of unusual batteries must have made that easy for them. If he ordered them, there’s a digital trail of the payment. Even if he had bought them here with cash, the pool of customers for those batteries at the store that sold them would doubtless be small.

One more detail from NBC: “Police were able to find Conditt using a variety of tactics, including coming up with a list of phone numbers and individuals that were in the area of the bombings when they occurred, using cell-site analysis and high-tech computing systems that can find patterns of callers in certain areas.” If you’re a true-crime fan, you know that it never ceases to amaze how many premeditated murderers forget to leave their phones at home after springing their plot, knowing full well that the cops can triangulate location from cell-phone towers. The bomber apparently turned his phone on hours before the cops caught up to him last night, helping them zero in on where he was. Unreal.