Victim of package explosion last Monday had been accepted to UT

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Draylen Mason, the 17-year-old killed by a package explosion on March 12, had been accepted to the University of Texas in the Butler School of Music, UT spokesman J.B. Bird said in an email.

“This was an accomplishment to be proud of — admission to the school is highly competitive,” Bird said. “We are deeply sorry for (Mason’s) family’s loss.”

Mason was involved in a youth orchestra program called Austin Soundwaves, said Doug Dempster, dean of the College of Fine Arts, in a statement. Austin Soundwaves provides free music instruction to artistically underserved children in Austin and especially East Austin, Dempster said. UT’s College of Fine Arts is a co-sponsor of the program.

“I’ve been watching Draylen blossom in the program for the last few years,” Dempster said. “I knew he had the chops to study music in college.”

Dempster said Mason was one of the first students to participate in the Austin Soundwaves program and was due to graduate from the program in the spring.

“(Mason) was a remarkably and precociously talented bass player whose talents developed enough through the program for him to audition into top music schools, including the Butler School of Music at the University of Texas, to begin next year as a freshman,” Dempster said.

The Austin Soundwaves program was celebrating Mason’s success, and the UT faculty was excited for Mason to join the music school, Dempster said.

“(Mason) was every inch a musician,” Dempster said. “He carried himself with a kind of quiet maturity that belied his youth.”

A crowdfunding page has been set up for Mason’s family through YouCaring.com. Within one week over 2,500 people had donated and raised over $93,000, surpassing the initial goal of $25,000.

The explosion that killed Mason was the second explosion of a package since March 2 when a package exploded at a home in northeast Austin, APD Chief Brian Manley said in a news conference last Tuesday. After the incident on March 2, APD was investigating the case as an isolated incident.

“What we had was a singular event that had taken place in this community that was very unique,” Manley said. “We had no information to believe that it was related to a larger plan at that time.”

Following the package explosion at Mason’s home, a third package exploded in southeast Austin at the home of a 75-year-old Hispanic woman, who is in critical condition, Manley said.

A $115,000 reward has been put forward for anyone with information that leads to an arrest of a suspect in these incidents. Additionally, APD is working with the FBI and the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives on the investigation, Manley said.

“We want the people of Austin to know that the full resources of the FBI’s team have been brought to help on this and we will continue to work with our partners until we catch a resolution,” FBI Special Agent in Charge Christopher Combs said in a news conference.

Following the package explosions on March 12, APD urged anyone in the Austin community who sees a package that may be suspicious to report it to APD. As of last Thursday morning, APD tweeted they had received a total of 495 suspicious package calls since 8 a.m. on March 12.