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4-day manhunt for suspect ends in arrest, but search for more mail bombs isn't over

Posted: 7:12 AM, Oct 27, 2018
Updated: 2018-10-27 13:12:35Z

The nationwide manhunt for a serial bombmaker targeting prominent Democrats ended with the arrest of a South Florida man on Friday.

But that's just the beginning, FBI Director Christopher Wray said. Authorities don't yet know if they've found all of the pipe bombs they say suspect Cesar Sayoc allegedly sent.

"Today's arrest does not mean we are all out of the woods," Wray said Friday at a news conference. "There may be more packages in transit now."

So far, authorities have intercepted at least 14 packages, officials said. Among the targets were former President Barack Obama, former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, former US Attorney General Eric Holder, California Senator Kamala Harris, New Jersey Senator Cory Booker and California Rep. Maxine Waters.

The most recent bomb connected to Sayoc was addressed to major Democratic donor Tom Steyer. It arrived Friday.

 

None of the bombs exploded, but Wray said "these are not hoax devices."

Investigators have not said what they think allegedly motivated Sayoc.

When asked why most of the bombs were sent to Democrats, US Attorney General Jeff Sessions replied, "I don't know. Other than what you might normally expect. He may have been -- appears to be partisan, but that will be determined by the facts as the case goes forward. I'm not able to comment on that."

Suspect has troubled past

FBI agents arrested Sayoc, 56, at an AutoZone parking lot in Plantation, Florida, about six miles west of Fort Lauderdale, on Friday morning. He was nearing his white van, its windows covered in eye-catching political images. Among them were pictures of Hillary Clinton, CNN's Van Jones, filmmaker Michael Moore and Green Party presidential candidate Jill Stein, with red targets or crosshairs over their images.

After federal agents took Sayoc into custody, he told investigators that the pipe bombs wouldn't have hurt anyone and that he didn't want to harm anyone, a law enforcement official told CNN. He later retained an attorney, so police questioning has ceased, the official added.

Sayoc, a resident of Aventura, Florida, had been kicked out by his parents and living in the Dodge van, according to a law enforcement official.

Like the windows of his van, his social media accounts were plastered with messages supporting the President, and provocative photos and memes attacking liberals. Facebook video showed him in a MAGA hat at a Trump rally in 2016.

Sayoc used the van to deliver food for New River Pizza & Fresh Kitchen in Fort Lauderdale, the restaurant general manager, Debra Gureghian, told CNN. He quit last January, saying he had gotten a job driving a hazardous waste truck in North Carolina, she said.

He called himself a white supremacist, she said, and disliked gay people, African Americans, Jews and anybody who isn't white, she said.

Sayoc had been arrested nine times before Friday, mostly in Florida.

Notable among them was a 2002 arrest after Sayoc threatened to bomb the Florida Power and Light Company, Miami police alleged, and said that "it would be worse than September 11th." Records show that Sayoc pleaded guilty and was sentenced to one year of probation.

Sayoc's former lawyer, Ronald S. Lowy, now represents Sayoc's family. Lowy said Sayoc's mother, who underwent surgery Friday, "can't understand his behavior or views."

Sayoc was charged with five federal crimes: Interstate transportation of an explosive, illegal mailing of explosives, threats against former Presidents and other persons, threatening interstate communications and assaulting current and former federal officers. He faces up to 48 years in prison.

He will make a court appearance at 2 p.m. Monday in Miami before a federal magistrate, but the cases will be prosecuted in the Southern District of New York.

For now, Sayoc is being held at the Federal Detention Facility in Miami.

DNA and a partial print

The nationwide search lasted four days and involved multiple law enforcement agencies.

A key break came Thursday when investigators traced five packages to the Opa-locka, Florida processing and distribution center outside of Miami, according to a criminal complaint and multiple law enforcement officials. That narrowed the geographic range of the search.

The FBI forensics lab in Quantico, Virginia, inspected some of the mail bombs and detected DNA and a fingerprint found on the device intended for Waters, a California Democrat, Wray said.

Local law enforcement officers matched it late Thursday night to a sample of Sayoc's DNA that had been previously collected, Wray said.

After they had identified the suspect, investigators detected a ping identifying Sayoc's cell phone and traced it to the AutoZone parking lot.