UPDATE: Federal prosecutors have formally charged a Florida man apprehended Friday for carrying out this week’s nationwide mail-bomb scare targeting prominent Democrats. Department of Justice officials said DNA and a fingerprint on one of the packages helped them link Cesar Altieri Sayoc of Aventura, Fla., to the crimes after a five-day investigation.
Sayoc was arrested near an auto parts store in Plantation, Fla., north of Miami and was charged with interstate transportation of an explosive, illegal mailing of explosives, threats against former presidents and other persons, threatening interstate communications, and assaulting federal officers, according to the criminal complaint against him.
Two other suspicious packages were intercepted Friday in California, one intended for Democratic Sen. Kamala Harris and another for billionaire political activist Tom Steyner. Authorities remain on high alert for other possible packages still en route to their destinations.
Although none of the packages exploded, FBI Director Chris Wray noted that they did contain potentially explosive materials and warned, “These are not hoax devices.” Law enforcement officials told the Associated Press that the devices were not rigged to explode upon opening, but they were not certain whether the devices were poorly designed or never intended to cause physical harm.
Sayoc, an amateur bodybuilder, a former male stripper, and a registered Republican, was placed on probation 16 years ago for a bomb threat charge. He has a long history of arrests and financial problems. Born in New York City, Sayoc attended college in North Carolina and moved to the Miami area in the late 1980s. His social media posts often criticized Democrats and praised President Donald Trump. The posts included misspellings that matched errors found on the mailing labels of the packages.
After Sayoc’s arrest, the president said, “We must never allow political violence take root in America” and that Americans “must unify.” Trump later said he bears “no blame” for the suspect’s actions.
OUR EARLIER REPORT (1:17 p.m.): Federal authorities have arrested a suspect in connection with a mail scare that targeted Democratic politicians and prominent supporters with suspicious packages this week containing devices that looked like pipe bombs. Law enforcement officials identified the suspect as Cesar Altieri Sayoc, 56, of Aventura, Fla. According to court and other public records, Sayoc, who was born in New York, has a lengthy criminal and court record in Florida. He has been convicted on grand theft, stolen property, and traffic charges and in 2002 on a threat to “throw, place, project or discharge any destructive device” directed at a Florida utility representative, according to the attorney who represented him. Law enforcement officers Friday in Plantation, Fla., examined a white van tied to the suspect, its windows covered with an assortment of decals, including what appeared to be the logos of the Republican National Committee and CNN. Authorities covered the vehicle with a blue tarp and took it away on the back of a flatbed truck.
Authorities so far have intercepted a dozen packages addressed to high-profile Democrats across the country, including former President Barack Obama, former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, CIA Director John Brennan (at CNN’s New York offices), former Attorney General Eric Holder, former Vice President Joe Biden, actor Robert De Niro, Rep. Maxine Waters of California, and liberal billionaire George Soros. None of the devices exploded, and it wasn’t clear if they were intended to cause physical harm or simply give recipients a scare. On Friday, authorities said they most recently found suspicious packages addressed to Sen. Cory Booker of New Jersey, and former National Director of Intelligence James Clapper. All of the packages were sent through the U.S. Postal Service with the Florida office of Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz of Florida, the former chairwoman of the Democratic National Committee, as the return address.
The bomb scare has become political fodder as the midterm elections approach. Some Democrats blame Republican rhetoric for inflaming potential violence against liberals, while some Republicans theorize the plot was cooked up to make them look bad before Election Day. President Donald Trump has called for calm and unity and lamented the effect of the incident on the midterms. “Republicans are doing so well in early voting, and at the polls, and now this ‘Bomb’ stuff happens and the momentum greatly slows—news not talking politics,” the president tweeted early Friday. Later in the day at a youth leadership summit, Trump said the perpetrator would be prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law, declaring that “these terrorizing acts are despicable.”
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Mickey is executive editor of WORLD Digital.