Fingerprints, DNA And Social Media Posts Helped FBI Identify Bomb Suspect Cesar Sayoc
One day after the FBI arrested a man in connection with improvised explosive devices sent to critics and opponents of President Trump, we're learning more about the suspect Cesar Altieri Sayoc.
Sayoc, 56, was arrested on Friday morning in South Florida and now faces federal five federal crimes including; transporting explosives across state lines, illegally mailing explosives, threatening former presidents and others, threatening interstate communications and assaulting federal officials
After Sayoc was taken into custody, the FBI confirmed they found another package on Friday evening. This one was addressed to prominent Democratic donor Tom Steyer in California, bringing the total to 14 suspicious packages addressed to 12 targets.
Sayoc is expected to appear in court on Monday in Miami. He could face up to 48 years in prison if convicted.
In a news conference on Friday afternoon, FBI director Christopher Wray said a fingerprint on one of the bubble-lined manila envelopes led them to identify Sayoc, who was already in the criminal justice system because of previous arrests in Florida.
Investigators at the FBI lab in Quantico, Va., also identified a possible DNA match from two of the homemade pipe bombs.
Authorities say they are looking for more packages and investigating if Sayoc had any help making these improvised devices. The homemade bombs "are not hoax devices," Wray stressed on Friday.
Attorney General Jeff Sessions was asked about why Sayoc had allegedly only been targeting Democrats at that same news conference. Sessions and FBI Director Christopher Wray declined to talk about the potential political motivations but Sessions did say this: "He may have been a partisan ... appears to be partisan, but that will be determined as the case goes forward."
NPR's Greg Myre reports Sayoc lived in his van, which was covered in pro-Trump stickers and anti-liberal images, and liked to hang out at the gym. An avid weightlifter, some of Sayoc's legal troubles were related to steroids, Myre reports.
Sayoc was known to work and hang out in strip clubs. Coworkers say he was DJing at a club the night before he was picked up by the FBI, Myre reports.
A registered Republican, Sayoc attended Trump rallies wearing a "Make America Great Again" hat and at one event, held up a poster that read "CNN sucks," according to his photos on social media.
Along with the physical evidence, the FBI used clues from social media to identify him. They were tipped off by similarities of misspelled words on the packages and the same misspelled words on his Twitter account.
Sayoc was aggressive on Twitter, often threatening Democrats like former Vice President Joe Biden, in vitriolic, typo riddled tweets. One of the 14 explosive packages discovered last week was addressed to Biden.
But Sayoc didn't just lash out at high profile politicians. Earlier this month he tweeted at Rochelle Ritchie, a political analyst and former press secretary for house Democrats, whom he likely saw on a Fox News segment.
"We will see you 4 sure. Hug your loved ones real close every time you leave you home," his tweet read.
Hey @Twitter remember when I reported the guy who was making threats towards me after my appearance on @FoxNews and you guys sent back a bs response about how you didn’t find it that serious. Well guess what it’s the guy who has been sending #bombs to high profile politicians!!!! pic.twitter.com/xBY8FMbqnq— R O C H E L L E (@RochelleRitchie) October 26, 2018
"I've received messages before from people who like to call me the N-word or the B-word or things like that, and I usually brush that off. I don't report it to Twitter or anything," Ritchie told NPR's Jasmine Garsd. "But this one was a little more concerning to me because it was seeming to be a threat on my life or a threat on my safety, or possibly even a threat for my loved ones."
Ritchie reported the tweet immediately and blocked Sayoc. She says Twitter got back to her within 24 hours and said the tweet did not violate their rules against abusive behavior.
Ritchie says she questioned the message she got back, "I felt like it was an automated response."
Twitter is often criticized for its handling of abusive content. The company did eventually suspend Sayoc's account, but it wasn't until after he'd been arrested.
An update. We made a mistake when Rochelle Ritchie first alerted us to the threat made against her. The Tweet clearly violated our rules and should have been removed. We are deeply sorry for that error.— Twitter Safety (@TwitterSafety) October 27, 2018
Twitter also walked back their response to Ritche in a public post admitting they made a mistake and that "the Tweet clearly violated our rules and should have been removed."
NPR's Vanessa Romoreports Sayoc consistently posted or re-tweeted messages attacking immigrants, antifa, Parkland high school shooting survivor David Hogg, and former NFL quarterback Colin Kaepernick.
Copyright 2020 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.