People are remembering the victims of a string of deadly package bombings this month that have left the Austin, Texas community grieving and on edge as authorities continue their search for the culprit.
Draylen Mason, the 17-year-old killed early Monday by the second of three package bombs in just two weeks, is described by those who knew him as an exceptionally talented student with a bright future ahead of him, local station KXAN reported. Mason was already accepted into the selective Butler School of Music at the University of Texas-Austin and was known around town as a seasoned bassist.
His life was cut short, however, after he opened a package left outside his home, triggering a deadly explosion. Two other people, including his mother, were wounded in the blast.
“From everything I’ve heard about Draylen, he was an outstanding young man who was going places with his life,” Austin Chief of Police Brian Manley said during a Tuesday news conference. “It’s an absolute tragedy that he’s no longer with us.”
Doug Dempster, dean of the College of Fine Arts at UT Austin, offered similar words, calling Mason “most remarkable talent in a most remarkable youth orchestra program called Austin Soundwaves.” The program offers free music classes to artistically underserved children, according to the news station.
“Draylen was one of the very first students to grow musically through the entire program and was due to graduate this spring,” Dempster said, adding that the teen jumped at the chance to help younger, more tentative musicians. “His gentle confidence seemed to come from a conviction that hard work and talent was going to work for him. It did.”
“The loss of any child is heartbreaking,” he continued. “The loss of a child with such conspicuous ambition, talent and determination is the cruelest kind of heartbreak.”
Mason was also part of the Austin Youth Orchestra and had recently been accepted into the Interlochen Arts Academy this summer, according to conductor William Dick. When the teen wasn’t busy with music, he took karate classes and taught martial arts at Fire Dragon Martial Arts. He would go on to become a third-degree black belt and began teaching karate classes at age 14.
“‘I’m gonna be a black belt one of these days,’ was the first thing to come out of his mouth,” Grand Master Moses Williams told KXAN. “At 10, he was a black belt.”
The blasts that killed Mason and critically injured a Latino woman are believed to be linked to a March 2 explosion that killed 39-year-old Anthony Stephan House. He was a graduate of Texas State University and had paved his way to becoming a seasoned Senior Project Manager. According to the Daily Beast, friends and neighbors say he was married with an 8-year-old daughter and served as president of his local Homeowner’s Association.
Since the mainstream media doesn't seem to care, I've tracked down information on the first package bomb victim in Austin, Texas.
His name is #AnthonyStephanHouse.
A married father w/ an 8 year old daughter. President of the homeowner's association. Blown to bits. pic.twitter.com/v6MOMtBDCM
— Shaun King (@ShaunKing) March 14, 2018
House died in the first of three blasts, an incident police initially thought was an isolated case. What’s worse, authorities believed House might’ve constructed the bomb himself in an attempt at suicide, and considered him a suspect. His family knew better, however, and believed it was a hate crime from the start.
So far, all the package bombing victims have been minorities, raising questions into whether the crimes were racially-motivated. Authorities since have backed off initial suggestions that hate crimes could be a core cause, however, AP reported.