The man arrested on suspicion of mailing at least a dozen suspicious packages to Democrats criticized by Donald Trump is a big fan of the president, with a long criminal history.
Cesar Sayoc, 56, was taken into custody by federal authorities on Friday in Plantation, Florida, according to multiple press accounts. Law enforcement also took possession of a van covered in stickers supporting Trump and criticizing Democratic officials. The Justice Department scheduled a press conference on the case for 2:30 p.m. Eastern time.
Sayoc is a registered Republican and called himself a promoter and booking agent. He was arrested numerous times, including for felony grand theft in the third degree in November 2013; he pleaded the next the next year. He was found guilty of a misdemeanor retail theft charge that stemmed from a May 2015 incident, along with multiple traffic violations.
Sayoc declared bankruptcy in 2012, when he had $21,109 in liabilities. The filing indicated he lived with his mother, owned an 11-year-old Chevy Tahoe with 285,000 miles on it, had collected unemployment and was working as a store manager. His attorney’s office was flooded with phone calls after his name emerged.
A Twitter account made in 2016 that appears to belong to the suspect has more than 1,000 images, many dedicated to baseless conspiracy theories. A spam of posts from this year all claim that Parkland, Florida, school shooting survivor David Hogg was a protester paid by billionaire George Soros. Another post claims Rep. Maxine Waters (D-Calif.) took money from the Russians and is a “poverty pimp.” And in a July post, he claims that Rep. Debbie Wasserman Shultz (D-Fla.) is known for “ripping off the elderly.” Soros, Waters and Wasserman Shultz were all targets of suspicious packages this week.
Other intended recipients of the packages included former President Barack Obama, former Vice President Joe Biden, Hillary Clinton, Robert De Niro, former Attorney General Eric Holder, Sen. Cory Booker (D-N.J.) and former CIA Director John Brennan.
A Tampa resident who said he encountered Sayoc in a hotel parking lot in Miami last May told HuffPost that the suspect was quirky — given the stickers on his van — but didn’t seem “violent” during their hourlong conversation.
“He wasn’t talking violent or anything like that but basically talked about fake news, Obama, Hillary Clinton, stuff like that. He said his family didn’t agree with him, that he only associated with other Trump supporters,” said the man, who asked to be identified only by his first name, Korey.
When Korey, a 40-year-old black Trump supporter, saw the van on TV Friday morning, he immediately identified it as Sayoc’s. Korey said he couldn’t believe the “regular Republican” he had spoken to was the bomb suspect.
“It was crazy, man. He never said nothing verbally hateful. He didn’t say, ‘I want to kill Obama.’ He railed against him but never threatened,” Korey said.
Korey said he was one of those who initially believed the bombs being sent to top Democrats were a false flag operation perpetrated by the left, as Trump implied Friday morning.
“I was thinking it too. I thought it was someone doing this to send a message to scare people. Maybe a Democrat,” he said. “Finding out that this guy did it — it was kinda like, I can see him doing it, just due to how much support or how passionate he was about the news media and Hillary Clinton. I put two and two together, and now I’m like, wow, he really was crazy.”
This is a developing story and will be updated.