PLANTATION, Fla. — The suspect arrested in the investigation of bombs sent to prominent Democrats and critics of President Donald Trump has been identified as Cesar Altieri Sayoc, a law enforcement source tells CBS News. DNA evidence on one of the devices played a part in leading investigators to the suspect, a law enforcement source told CBS News’ senior investigative producer Pat Milton.
The 56-year-old south Florida resident has a criminal history in Broward County, Florida, and arrest records list his place of birth as Brooklyn, New York. A law enforcement source tells Milton he was convicted on state charges in Florida in 2002 with “threatening to throw, place, project or discharge any destructive device.” Details of the August 2002 offense weren’t immediately clear.
Sayoc registered in Florida in 2016 as a Republican, Milton reports. Undated video surfaced Friday of Sayoc apparently attending a Trump rally. Speaking early Friday afternoon, Mr. Trump praised authorities for quickly taking Sayoc into custody and said he would be prosecuted to the “fullest extent of the law.”
Federal authorities made the arrest in Florida on Friday in connection with the mail-bomb scare that widened to 12 suspicious packages, the Justice Department said.
Police activity centered earlier on an AutoZone in a residential area, but the scene had begun to clear by late Friday morning, reports CBS News’ David Begnaud. Law enforcement officers were seen on television examining a white van in the business’ parking lot, its windows covered with an assortment of political stickers, in the city of Plantation, west of Fort Lauderdale.
The stickers included images of Trump, American flags and what appeared to be logos of the Republican National Committee and CNN, though the writing surrounding those images was unclear.
Officials covered the vehicle with a blue tarp and transported it from the lot, trailed by several police cars, Begnaud reports.
Sayoc has an address listed in Miramar, about 13 miles south of the AutoZone. Online records list other addresses in Aventura and Fort Lauderdale. Sayoc was convicted in 2014 for grand theft and misdemeanor theft of less than $300, and in 2013 for battery. In 2004, he faced several felony charges for possession of a synthetic anabolic-androgenic steroid. He also had several arrests for theft in the 1990s.
He filed for chapter 7 bankruptcy in 2012. His name is also listed on business records tied to dry cleaning and catering businesses.
An attorney who had represented Sayoc in prior legal matters, Ronald Scott Lowy, told CBS News he felt Sayoc “wasn’t always in his right mind.” Lowy said he represented Sayoc in a case in which Sayoc was accused of making a threat that included a false identification card or driver’s license.
Lowy said Sayoc “wanted to look younger,” so he had his date of birth altered. Lowy called the behavior bizarre.
Sayoc always “expressed emotions about the institutions of America” and “felt oppressed by them, but not necessarily in a political way,” Lowy said. The lawyer said Sayoc made those statements more than a decade ago.
Lowy said Sayoc was proud of his heritage, which he described as American Indian.
Witness Tom Fiore, a former law enforcement officer who was across the street from the AutoZone Friday morning, told CBS News he heard a “flash bang” device, saw a cloud of smoke and then a man on the ground for quite awhile surrounded by police officers. He described the man on the ground as a white male, about 50-65 years old, wearing what looked like a black leather vest with long, slick hair.
Fiore described a minimum of 50 officers gathered at the scene.
The development came amid a coast-to-coast manhunt for the person responsible for a series of explosive devices addressed to Democrats, including former President Barack Obama, former Vice President Joe Biden and Hillary Clinton.
Law enforcement officials said they had intercepted a dozen packages in states across the country. None had exploded, and it wasn’t immediately clear if they were intended to cause physical harm or simply sow fear and anxiety.
Earlier Friday, authorities said suspicious packages addressed to New Jersey Sen. Cory Booker and former National Intelligence Director James Clapper – both similar to those containing pipe bombs sent to other prominent Trump critics – had been intercepted.