The 13 pipe bombs allegedly mailed by a Florida man to prominent Democrats critical of President Donald Trump were "not hoax devices," according to FBI Director Christopher Wray.
Federal officials arrested Cesar Sayoc
, 56, of Aventura, on Friday morning at an AutoZone in Plantation. Sayoc has a criminal history and maintains disturbing social media accounts
filled with right-wing conspiracy theories, graphic threats to Trump critics, and racist, anti-Semitic and transphobic memes. During Sayoc's arrest, authorities also confiscated a white van covered in right-wing political bumper stickers featuring Trump, rifle scope graphics over images of Hillary Clinton and former President Barack Obama, and a sticker that said, "CNN Sucks."
The FBI has charged Sayoc with five crimes, including interstate transportation of an explosive, illegal mailing of explosives, threats against former presidents and certain other persons, threatening interstate communications and assaulting federal officers, according to a copy of the complaint obtained by BuzzFeed News
The complaint says Sayoc mailed 13 improvised explosive devices to Obama, Clinton, former Vice President Joe Biden, former Attorney General Eric Holder, U.S. Rep. Maxine Waters, U.S. Sen. Cory Booker, former CIA Director John Brennan; former U.S. Director of National Intelligence
James Clapper, actor Robert De Niro and liberal billionaire philanthropist and Democratic backer George Soros. The package intended for Brennan ended up at the New York bureau of CNN. The Los Angeles Times
reports U.S. Sen. Kamala Harris and billionaire political activist Tom Steyer also received packages Friday.
No one has been physically injured by the homemade pipe bombs. FBI Director Wray says each device consisted of roughly six inches of PVC pipe, a small clock, a battery, wiring, and "energetic material" capable of exploding if exposed to heat, shock or friction.
"Though we’re still analyzing the devices in our Laboratory, these are not hoax devices," Wray said.
The packages all listed a return address for U.S. Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz's office in South Florida. A package sent to Wasserman Schultz was originally intended for Holder, but the address for Holder was incorrect, and Wasserman Schultz's office in Sunrise was the return address.
FBI investigators discovered a latent fingerprint on one of the packages addressed to Waters and matched it with Sayoc's fingerprints, Wray said. Officials also found "a possible DNA connection" from the packages and DNA collected from Sayoc previously during an arrest in Florida.
When asked why Sayoc appeared to be targeting Democrats, U.S. Attorney Jeff Sessions said at a news conference Friday, "I don’t know. Other than what you might normally expect. He appears to be a partisan."
While earlier Trump complained that people were unfairly blaming him, after Sayoc was arrested, the president said, "These terrorizing acts are despicable and have no place in our country."
Sayoc, who posted photos and videos of himself at Trump rallies, used social media to send graphic threats
to celebrities, Democrats (including Florida gubernatorial candidate Andrew Gillum), and critics of Trump.
He would often send the same series of images of a man being eaten by a snake, and another of a decapitated goat, to Twitter accounts like CNN, Joe Biden, Ron Howard, Jeff Flake, Jim Carrey and more.
The Washington Post
reports a Fort Lauderdale pizza restaurant where Sayoc worked as a delivery driver required him to park his sticker-covered van in an area where customers could not see it.
"It was puppets with their heads cut off, mannequins with their heads cut off, Ku Klux Klan, a black person being hung, anti-gay symbols, torchings, bombings you name it, it was all over his truck," the restaurant's general manager Debra Gureghian told the Post
. "He always talked about 'if I had complete autonomy none of these gays or these blacks would survive.'"
Although Sayoc claimed to be a member of the Seminole Tribe and his LinkedIn listed him as promoter and booking agent at the Seminole Hard Rock Hotel & Casino in Hollywood, the Seminole Tribe of Florida said there "no evidence that [Cesar Sayoc] is or was a member or employee of the Seminole Tribe of Florida, or is or was an employee of Seminole Gaming or Hard Rock International."
Court records in Broward and Miami-Dade Counties indicate his birth place as Brooklyn, New York. Sayoc had a long history of arrests in both counties, mainly for petty and grand theft, plus traffic charges. In 2002, Sayoc was arrested in Miami-Dade for a threat to bomb or throw an explosive device.
reports Sayoc's former lawyer said Sayoc threatened to throw a bomb at a Florida utility representative when he got frustrated by the service. Miami attorney Ronald Lowy said Sayoc "showed no ability at the time to back up his threat with bomb-making expertise," and he served a year's probation.
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