Man killed after 'device' explodes at NE Austin home

(Photo: CBS Austin)

AUSTIN, Texas (KEYE) - One man is dead after an explosive device detonates on his front porch. The explosion happened just before 7 a.m. in the Harris Ridge neighborhood near Parmer Lane.

The Austin Police Department says from what they've gathered so far, they don't believe this is part of a bigger plan or a terrorist act. The FBI and ATF are assisting in the investigation by working to determine what exploded and how it got there.

Around 6:55 a.m. 911 calls poured into APD's dispatch center from the 1100 block of Haverford Drive, near Dessau and Howard Lane.

"The callers were reporting an explosion and they also reported that there was a victim that appeared to have traumatic injuries," said Austin Police Chief Brian Manley.

Neighbor Kenneth Thompson heard the blast. "I saw my neighbor run across the street and actually was trying to turn the guy over," Thompson explained. The victim's injuries were critical.

"I did notice there was a pool of blood everywhere," Thompson recalled.

Police say the victim, a man in his 40s, died at the hospital. Investigators believe something exploded on his front porch but they're not sure how it got there.

"That is one of the things we want to know. Was there a package delivered to this residence in the past couple of days? We are still trying to work to understand what happened, what this device was and where it came from," said Manley.

Neighbor Sean Philips said he lives right next door to the man who suffered the explosion. He said the blast sounded like a "car getting smashed into." When we went outside to check what it was he said he saw his neighbor collapsed to the ground covered in blood.

"He looked like something you'd see in a war movie. He had shrapnel from head to toe, his hands were blown almost off, his face had a giant gash in it," said Philips.

Neighbor Erin Norelius lives a few houses away. "It doesn't really feel that safe anymore, to be honest, because it's right there," she said.

Norelius said the FBI showed her a picture of a man and asked if she'd seen him in the neighborhood. She didn't recognize him and they wouldn't tell her much more.

"If it wasn't random, I mean, what would get you to that point to where you would need to do that to another human being? It's terrible. It's terrible," Norelius said.

APD is investigating this case as a homicide. The FBI and ATF are working with them to conduct a post-blast analysis to determine what caused the explosion.

Security expert with Stratfor Fred Burton said APD is likely looking into the victim's life to find clues as to who might want to hurt him.

“Who hated him so badly that someone would want to put together a bomb," Burton said.

Burton also said APD can piece the bomb back together saying there is a "treasure trove" of forensic evidence the FBI can analyze. Burton said it's difficult for bomb makers to hide who they are.

Police are looking into how the device got to the front porch. Burton said that could've been either through the mail or placed on the porch personally. He said it can be difficult to keep a bomb intact through the mail so a possible suspect may have stood by during the explosion.

“Bombers will actually set that device down themselves so one of the things APD will be doing is looking at surveillance video of the neighborhood," Burton said.

The troubling thing for Burton is, it's difficult to successfully set off a bomb.

“Now it becomes a race against time to figure out who the heck is the bomb maker and let’s hope this is the only one that he or she has decided to send," Burton said.

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