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'Something Broke Him,' Says Friend Of Suspect In Austin Bombings

Authorities say the suspected Austin bomber blew himself up overnight in his vehicle as a SWAT team closed in on him. Investigators have identified him as Mark Anthony Conditt.

Jeremiah Jensen, a former intern at KERA, was surprised to learn the suspect was someone he knew.

Jensen says he was good friends with Conditt in their late teens. They were close before Jensen left for college at Southern Methodist University in Dallas. It had been a few years since they’d spoken.

Then came Wednesday's news. Investigators believe Conditt is responsible for the bombings in Austin and suburban San Antonio, which killed two people and injured four others. 

“I woke up this morning and had about 10 reporters telling me that my friend was a serial murderer,” Jensen said.

Jensen and Conditt were part of the same homeschool community. They both belonged to Austin Stone Community Church. Their families often had lunch together after Sunday services.

Credit Facebook
This undated photo from a Facebook posting shows Mark Anthony Conditt, who was named as the suspected serial bomber in and around Austin.

“People have asked me if I saw this coming, or if he exhibited any tendencies that would have made me think that he was capable of something like this, and the answer is no,” Jensen said.

Jensen says Conditt struggled socially.

“He could kind of come off as kind of dominant and pugnacious in conversation," Jensen said. "However, as he got to know you and as he became more comfortable over the couple of years that I knew him, he started to, he started to soften.”

Jensen describes Conditt as a philosophical guy, a deep thinker. He was athletic but didn’t play any organized sports. He was happy. Jensen wonders what changed since they fell out of touch.

“I think that maybe he was lonely when he died," he said. "And I don’t know why he did what he did. I don’t know why he succumbed to hatred or the loneliness or the sadness."

Jensen used to spend a lot of time with Conditt and assumed he would go on to have a good life.

“He’s not a psychopath," he said. "Something broke him. Something broke him and I don’t know what that was."

As investigators work to piece together a motive and loved ones grieve the victims of these bombings, friends of Conditt are at a loss to reconcile the person they knew with the person authorities believe terrorized a city for three weeks.

Courtney Collins has been working as a broadcast journalist since graduating from the Medill School of Journalism at Northwestern University in 2004. Before coming to KERA in 2011, Courtney worked as a reporter for NPR member station WAMU in Washington D.C. While there she covered daily news and reported for the station’s weekly news magazine, Metro Connection.