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Pair killed by Austin package bombs shared family ties

NBC News logo NBC News 3/14/2018 Corky Siemaszko

The two Texans killed earlier this week in Austin by package bombs were members of prominent African-American families and knew each other, the local NAACP president said Wednesday.

"They have a long history and go the same church," Nelson Linder said of victims Stephen House and Draylen Mason in an interview with NBC News.

Image: Draylen MasonDraylen Mason, center, 17, died in one of the Austin bombing incidents. © Provided by NBCU News Group, a division of NBCUniversal Media LLC Image: Draylen MasonDraylen Mason, center, 17, died in one of the Austin bombing incidents.

Linder identified their church as Wesley United Methodist Church, which was founded 152 years ago by newly freed slaves.

As for 75-year-old bombing survivor Esperanza Herrera, a Hispanic woman who remains in critical condition at a local hospital, Linder said investigators suspect she picked up an explosive package that was meant for somebody else.

"The intended target was another person who might be connected to the House and Mason families," said Linder, who declined to identify that person or discuss a possible motive.

The revelations came as the city remained on high alert after the spate of blasts. Austin police — backed by the FBI and investigators from the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives — were continuing to search Wednesday for whoever was responsible.

Austin Police Chief Brian Manley has already called the three blasts, which happened in different parts of east Austin, "related incidents," But other than confirming that the packages weren't delivered by U.S. mail, he has not yet said how.

Manley has also not ruled out the possibility that these could be hate crimes.

House, 39, was killed on March 2 and his death was initially listed as "suspicious." Mason, who was 17 and a talented musician, was killed Monday in a blast that also injured a woman whose name police have not released.

Herrera was injured a few hours later on Monday, police said.

Linder said he hired House a decade ago to help build the NAACP website and knows his stepfather Freddie Dixon. He said Dixon and Mason's grandparents, local dentist Norman Mason and Austin Area Urban League co-founder LaVonne Mason, are good friends.

The bombings happened as thousands of people were attending the the South by Southwest music, film and technology festival, but Manley said there was no connection to that event.

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