In the wake of the four package bombs detonated in Austin, Texas, leaders of the Black community have revealed the two Black victims that were killed have a family connection that goes back years.
On March 2, the first package bomb was set off, killing 39-year-old Anthony House, who was the father to an 8-year-old girl. Just over a week later, a second package bomb killed 17-year-old Draylen Mason. Although some believe the victims were targeted in a general hate crime, the president of the Austin chapter of the NAACP believes the target is specific to their families.
In a conversation with BET News, Nelson Linder, the Austin NAACP president, detailed the family ties that connect Mason and House.
“The families knew each other,” Linder told BET. “Anthony House’s stepfather, Minister Freddie Dixon, and Dr. Norman Mason [Draylen’s grandfather] know each other very well. They are both prominent figures in the Black community and belonged to the same church.”
Dixon used to be a longtime pastor at Wesley United Methodist Church, a historic Black church that was founded by newly freed slaves.
House’s stepfather and Mason’s grandparents are old friends who are not only connected to the church, but connected to the growth of the African-American community in Austin.
Mason’s grandmother LaVonne Mason is a co-founder of the Austin Area Urban League.
NAACP President Linder thinks people on the outside think this is just a racial attack, but he has reason to believe “this is more of a personal target, like something connecting the families to the suspect and/or suspects.”
Additionally, he says the third bomb, which injured 75-year-old Esperanza Herrera, was meant for another woman with the last name Mason, who lived across the street. The intended target did have the name Mason, but she is of no relation to Draylen and his family, according to Linder.
Austin police have not publicly said the families’ history is connected to the bombings, yet they have not ruled out that possibility.
Right now, Linder is curious about the motive, considering the fourth bomb was detonated in an affluent white neighborhood.
“The previous three bombs occurred in predominantly Black and brown areas, the fourth bomb occurred in a very white subdivision of Austin. I’ve been talking to the FBI, and they say it’s the same person [who carried out the bombs]. The bombing technology is all the same, but there’s still no motive, and that’s key. Right now we are trying to determine the motive.”
Although Linder is aware that the change of location in the fourth attack has created a new sense of fear in Austin, he believes it should not detract from the racial and familial connection between the two victims who died.
“The white victims got everyone’s attention. It’s going to get people’s attention, that area is very affluent, they have a lot more resources, and geography makes a difference,” Linder told BET.
“The fourth bombing put people on alert, and people are scared. But the primary victims have been African-American. We lost two people, it has to be noted as a factor.”
(Photo: Nelson Linder/NAACP Austin Chapter)