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.
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 previous addresses in Aventura and Fort Lauderdale. He’s also faced previous charges in Broward County of theft, fraud, and possession of controlled substances.
Witness Tom Fiore, a former law enforcement officer who was across the street from the AutoZone, 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.