Suspect Identified In Suspicious Package Case Following Arrest In Florida

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Updated at 1:56 p.m. ET

Authorities have arrested one person in connection with the wave of suspicious packages sent this week to political critics of President Trump, the Justice Department said on Friday.

FBI special agents arrested Cesar Altieri Sayoc, 56, in South Florida, a law enforcement official confirmed to NPR. Sayoc has a criminal record and public records connected him with an address in Davie, Fla.

Police outside the U.S. Post Office Royal Palm Processing & Distribution Center, in Opa-locka, Fla. on Thursday.

Police outside the U.S. Post Office Royal Palm Processing & Distribution Center, in Opa-locka, Fla. on Thursday.

On Friday morning in a parking lot in Plantation, Fla., FBI and other investigators surrounded a white van believed to be connected to the case; their inspection was shown live on cable TV and the van was loaded onto a flatbed truck.

Trump hailed law enforcement agencies in a statement at the White House and condemned the prospective threats to political leaders.

“These terrorizing acts are despicable and have no place in our country,” he said. “We must never allow political violence to take root in America. We cannot let it happen.”

A news conference was scheduled for 2:30 p.m. Friday at the Justice Department in Washington, D.C.

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More suspicious packages

The announcement followed the discovery Friday of more packages bound for political foes of President Trump.

One was discovered in Sacramento, Calif., addressed to Sen. Kamala Harris, said a spokesman for the sheriff’s office there. One was discovered in Florida addressed to Sen. Cory Booker, D-N.J., and one in New York City to former intelligence boss James Clapper.

The recovery of those envelopes brought the known total to 13 parcels addressed to 11 targets, all of whom are critics or opponents of the president.

None of the suspicious devices included in the envelopes has exploded, and so far no one has been hurt.

Federal authorities have acknowledged they don’t know how many total packages there are and there could be more moving through the mail as the search continues both for the devices and for the person or people who sent them.

Clapper, who is a commentator on CNN, appeared on air to say, “This is definitely domestic terrorism. No question about it in my mind.”

Although the apparently homemade potential pipe bombs have not exploded, authorities say they are treating them as “live devices,” not “hoax devices,” New York City Police Commissioner James O’Neill said Thursday.

Authorities who have discovered the parcels around the country — in New York, outside Washington, D.C., in Florida and in Los Angeles — are sending them to the FBI Laboratory in Quantico, Va., for examination there.

The Sunshine State

At least one of the packages passed through a large U.S. mail sorting facility in Opa-locka, Fla., near Miami, according to multiple reports.

The Miami Herald, citing a federal law enforcement official familiar with the investigation, reports that the package sent from the facility is likely the one that ended up on Wednesday at the South Florida office of U.S. Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz.

That package was originally sent to the office of former U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder. It was not delivered and was instead sent to the labeled return address — listed as Wasserman Schultz’s office.

Before the package arrived there, the Herald reports it was rerouted through the Opa-locka mail sorting facility.

Federal agents and the Miami-Dade County Police Department searched the facility on Thursday night, according to reports from the Herald, Reuters and The Associated Press. No potentially explosive devices were found, according to reports.

“A search of a postal database suggested at least some may have been mailed from Florida,” the AP reports.

Hundreds of thousands of packages pour into the facility every day — it’s the size of five football fields, the Herald reports. Miami-Dade Police Department specialists worked at the mail center on Friday morning, the agency said.

The attacks

The packages began to show up on Monday, starting with billionaire George Soros, a major donor to Democrats and Democratic causes.

In addition to Booker, Clapper and Brennan, one package has been addressed to former President Barack Obama, two to former Vice President Joe Biden, one to former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, one to former Attorney General Eric Holder and two to Rep. Maxine Waters, D-Calif. One was also addressed to the actor Robert De Niro, a harsh Trump critic.

De Niro included a political call-out in his statement about the packages on Friday morning.

“I thank God no one’s been hurt, and I thank the brave and resourceful security and law enforcement people for protecting us,” he said. “There’s something more powerful than bombs, and that’s your vote. People must vote!”

Trump sounded the same note when he addressed the parcel attacks Friday morning on Twitter.

Trump’s use of sarcasm quotes around “bomb” appeared to be an allusion to skepticism voiced by some former investigators and explosives specialists about the devices. As one expert told NPR, the apparently homemade devices look like they might include hazardous materials but not as though they could explode.

Authorities say they’re treating the devices as potentially “live” and one of them has been protectively destroyed by an explosive ordnance disposal team in New York.

A wide investigation remains ongoing, with the FBI, the Postal Service and other federal agencies working with state and local authorities.

Copyright 2018 NPR. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/.

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