LATEST PAPER
61° Good Morning
61° Good Morning
News

Suspect in bomb packages case in custody, Justice Department says

Agents who took Cesar Sayoc also hauled away a white van that was plastered with pro-Trump stickers.

The bomb packages suspect was identified as Cesar

The bomb packages suspect was identified as Cesar Sayoc, left, by two federal law enforcement officials on Friday. Photo Credit: Broward County Sheriff; Drew Angerer / Getty Images

PLANTATION, FLORIDA –  Attorney General Jeff Sessions said on Friday that Cesar Sayoc, the suspect in at least 13 suspicious packages sent to prominent Democrats and others, is in the custody of the FBI and has been charged with five federal crimes.

Sayoc faces up to 58 years in prison if found guilty, Sessions said at a press conference announcing the charges.

"We will not tolerate such lawlessness, especially political violence," he said.

FBI agents arrested Sayoc, 56, in Plantation, Florida and also hauled away a white van plastered with pro-Trump stickers, the slogan "CNN SUCKS" and images of Democratic figures with red crosshairs over their faces.

FBI Director Christopher Wray told the news conference that fingerprints on a package sent to Congresswoman Maxine Waters were confirmed to be that of Sayoc.

He also said there could be other packages.

Announcing the arrest by the Federal Bureau of Investigation to a cheering audience at the White House, Predident Donald Trump said such "terrorizing acts" were despicable and had no place in the United States.

"We must never allow political violence to take root in America - cannot let it happen," Trump said. "And I'm committed to doing everything in my power as president to stop it and to stop it now."

No one claimed responsibility for the parcel bombs addressed to former President Barack Obama and others, which authorities denounced as terrorism. The episode came less than two weeks before U.S. congressional elections that could alter the balance of power in Washington.

Sayoc's home address was listed in public records as an upscale gated apartment complex in the seaside town of Aventura, Florida.

According to the records, he is a registered Republican with a lengthy criminal past – including once making a bomb threat – and a history of posting inflammatory broadsides on social media against Trump's political foes.

Sayoc was being held at an FBI processing center in Miramar, Florida, CNN said. He was expected to be taken to the Federal Detention Center in downtown Miami and will likely make his first appearance before a judge on Monday, according to former Assistant U.S. Attorney David Weinstein.

A federal law enforcement source said charges would likely be brought by federal prosecutors in Manhattan and Sayoc transferred to New York City.

Four more suspicious packages were found on Friday, according to officials and media reports, bringing the total to 14. None of the devices has detonated, and no injuries have been reported.

The intended recipients of packages discovered on Friday included Democratic U.S. Senator Cory Booker of New Jersey, former U.S. Director of National Intelligence James Clapper, Democratic U.S. Senator Kamala Harris of California and Democratic donor Tom Steyer.

'STOP THE RANCOR'

Hours after a federal law enforcement official said the investigation's focus on Florida had intensified, police closed roads around the parking lot of an AutoZone store in Plantation where Sayocwas arrested, and helicopters flew overhead.

A man named Dre, a manager at a used car dealership next door to the AutoZone, said he heard a loud noise that sounded like an explosion shortly after 11 a.m.

"I opened the door and saw the FBI there," Dre, who declined to give his full name, said in a telephone interview.

A woman who lives nearby and declined to give her name said she was in her yard weeding on Friday morning when she heard a loud bang, saw smoke and heard a lot of shouting.

TV images showed investigators there using a blue tarp to cover Sayoc's van before removing it on a truck.

All the people targeted by the suspicious packages have been maligned by right-wing critics. Packages that surfaced earlier in the week were addressed to Obama, former Vice President Joe Biden, former Secretary of State and presidential candidate Hillary Clinton, billionaire Democratic Party donor George Soros, Representative Maxine Waters, former Attorney General Eric Holder, former CIA director John Brennan and actor Robert De Niro.

Trump's critics charged that his inflammatory rhetoric against Democrats and the press created a climate for politically motivated violence.

"If we don't stop this political mania, this fervor, rancor, hatred, you'll see this again and again and again," New York Governor Andrew Cuomo told MSNBC. "We have to get to the genesis, and the genesis is an overheated, vitriolic political division in this country and it starts with the leaders, and it starts with the president."

Trump's supporters accused Democrats of unfairly suggesting the president was to blame for the bomb scare.

After first calling for unity at the White House event, Trump lamented attacks against him and again pointed at the media.

"I get attacked all the time ... I can do the greatest thing for our country, and on the networks and on different things it will show bad," he told the crowd, acknowledging an attendee who shouted "fake news."

The devices were believed to have been fashioned from bomb-making designs widely available on the internet, according to a federal law enforcement source. Still, investigators said they were treating the devices as "live" explosives, not a hoax.

"I thank God no one's been hurt, and I thank the brave and resourceful security and law enforcement people for protecting us," De Niro said in a statement. "There's something more powerful than bombs, and that's your vote. People MUST vote!"

Comments

We're revamping our Comments section. Learn more and share your input.

News photos & videos