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Arrest Made In Case Of Suspicious Packages Sent To Prominent Democrats


Law enforcement made a major breakthrough today with the arrest of a Florida man accused of sending more than a dozen package bombs across the United States. The devices were addressed to prominent Democrats and critics of President Trump. This morning, FBI agents swarmed an AutoZone parking lot in South Florida and arrested 56-year-old Cesar Sayoc. That arrest came shortly after two more suspicious packages were identified. At a Justice Department news conference, FBI Director Christopher Wray said the investigation is just beginning.


CHRISTOPHER WRAY: Today's arrest doesn't mean we're all out of the woods. There may be other packages in transit now. So we need the help of everyone out there - every citizen, everyone in law enforcement, everyone we've got - to help with this investigation in the days to come.

SHAPIRO: At the same news conference, Attorney General Jeff Sessions said the suspect, quote, "appears to be a partisan." Sayoc is a registered Republican and supporter of Donald Trump. Speaking at the White House today, President Trump commended law enforcement and called for an end to political violence.


PRESIDENT DONALD TRUMP: We must never allow political violence to take root in America - cannot let it happen. And I'm committed to doing everything in my power as president to stop it.

SHAPIRO: Caitie Switalski reports from member station WLRN in Miami. She's been tracking developments today and joins us now from the site of the arrest. And Caitie, first, what else can you tell us about the suspect?

CAITIE SWITALSKI, BYLINE: So we know that Sayoc was here this morning at this AutoZone just west of Fort Lauderdale. And he came in his big white van full of stickers, very pro-Republican, anti-liberal stickers. And it's still not clear if he was an employee at this AutoZone or if he was just a customer shopping. But FBI agents swarmed the facility this morning right off a major highway and were looking through the computer system and questioning employees here. AutoZone does track customers by their cellphone number when they make a purchase, so FBI agents were here for a few hours looking through the computer system.

SHAPIRO: So that all went down this morning. What is the scene like now?

SWITALSKI: So it's still a media frenzy here, of course, but a little quieter. The store's been closed for the rest of the day. But a lot of customers have come up and tried to come in and get things like oil for their cars, and they've been pretty frustrated and wondering what's going on. But across the street, actually, a few people saw the arrest happen because NYPD and FBI agents were sort of doing a stakeout across the street with binoculars waiting for the moment to arrest Sayoc.

SHAPIRO: Wow. And I understand you spoke with one of those witnesses today. What did they tell you about what they saw?

SWITALSKI: I did. I spoke with a businessman right across the street from the AutoZone. And he knew - he was telling me he knew pretty much right away when he saw NYPD and FBI agents that this was related to the suspicious packages and the pipe bombs mailed out this week. He said he just had a gut intuition that this was bigger than a small crime. And he actually saw Sayoc's face and his expressions the moment he was arrested.

UNIDENTIFIED BUSINESSMAN: He actually had a look on his face from what I saw of him more of, like, just a, OK, they got me - you know, like he gave up kind of a thing. Like, I can't believe I did this.

SWITALSKI: And after Sayoc was taken away by FBI agents, his white van covered in these stickers that were anti-media, anti-liberal agendas and pro-Republicans was taken away and towed off by the FBI to a facility in a neighboring city. And they covered it with a blue tarp to take it away.

SHAPIRO: Sayoc appears to have been very active on social media. What can you tell us about his postings there?

SWITALSKI: Yes. So for the past several weeks on Twitter, his posts have been very, very anti-Florida Democratic gubernatorial candidate Andrew Gillum. And his posts have really been attacking people that have donated to Gillum, supported Gillum, and he keeps screenshotting these negative campaign ads of Gillum. He seemed a little fixated.

SHAPIRO: All right. That's Caitie Switalski of member station WLRN in Miami. Thanks for joining us today.

SWITALSKI: Thank you, Ari. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

Caitie Switalski