Timeline: Florida man charged after weeklong mail-bomb scare
A coast-to-coast manhunt appeared to come to an end on Friday after federal law enforcement officials arrested a 56-year-old Florida man in connection with a weeklong mail bomb scare that saw more than a dozen suspicious packages mailed to critics of the president.
Cesar Sayoc, an amateur bodybuilder who spread far-right conspiracy theories on social media, was charged with five federal crimes, including interstate transportation of an explosive, illegal mailing of an explosive, threats against former U.S. presidents, threatening interstate commerce and assaulting current and former federal officers.
He has an extensive criminal record dating back to 1991, which includes arrests for felony theft, fraud charges and threatening to “blow up” a Florida utility company.
The bomb scare began on Monday, when law enforcement authorities were called to examine a suspicious package mailed to the suburban New York home of philanthropist George Soros. Since then, prominent U.S. Democrats and critics of U.S. President Donald Trump have received similar packages, including Barack Obama, Hillary Clinton and former director of National Intelligence James Clapper.
Here is a timeline of how the bomb scare played out. All times are given in Eastern Daylight Time.
5:15 p.m.: U.S. President Donald Trump tells reporters on the South Lawn of the White House that while he knows the pipe bomb suspect was one of his supporters, he bears “no blame” for the suspect’s actions. He lamented that the bombing scare has hindered the Republicans’ “momentum” ahead of the midterm elections and added that he will “probably pass” on reaching out to those who were targeted.
5:10 p.m.: FBI spokesperson Prentice Danner says a suspicious package seized near San Francisco and addressed to billionaire political activist Tom Steyer has similarities to the other packages mailed this week.
3:25 p.m.: Attorney General Jeff Sessions says he doesn’t know why suspicious packages were sent to Democrats and CNN, but says that Sayoc “appears to be a partisan.” If convicted, he could face up to 48 years in prison.
3:05 p.m.: FBI Director Christopher Wray says more than a dozen suspicious packages sent to Democrats and CNN were “not hoax devices” and contained materials that could react and cause a potential explosion. Sayoc was found in part by using fingerprint and DNA evidence.
2:55 p.m.: Attorney General Jeff Sessions says federal authorities are charging Cesar Sayoc, a 56-year-old Florida man and fervent Donald Trump supporter, with five federal crimes including the mailing of explosives and threatening former U.S. presidents.
2:40 p.m.: Democratic Sen. Kamala Harris’ office says authorities in Sacramento, California, are investigating a suspicious package that was mailed to her and identified at a Sacramento mail facility.
1:59 p.m.: U.S. President Donald Trump tweets his support of the FBI, Department of Justice and other law enforcement agencies “for their incredible work, skill and determination!”
11:59 a.m.: Law enforcement officials in the city of Plantation, Florida, are seen on television examining a white van with windows covered with an assortment of stickers. The stickers celebrated Republicans and denounced the president’s political opponents and CNN.
Friday, 11:33 a.m.: The U.S. Justice Department confirms an arrest has been made in connection to the series of suspicious packages sent to some of U.S. President Donald Trump’s biggest critics. The name of the suspect and the location of the arrest were not disclosed.
9:40 a.m.: Actor Robert De Niro is urging people to get out and vote, just days after an explosive package was sent to his New York restaurant. "There's something more powerful than bombs, and that's your vote. People must vote!” De Niro wrote in a statement.
9:25 a.m.: Two law enforcement officials tell AP a suspicious package has been found at a post office in Midtown Manhattan. The anonymous officers say the package was addressed to former Director of National Intelligence James Clapper.
8:55 a.m.: The FBI says another suspicious package has been found in Florida, this time directed to New Jersey Democratic Sen. Cory Booker. Investigators are still uncertain if these packages are meant to explode, or sow fear into their targets.
5:55 a.m.: U.S. President Donald Trump criticizes CNN and other mainstream media for blaming him for the bombs sent to some of his biggest rivals.
Thursday, 7:02 p.m.: The Associated Press reports that a law enforcement source says Miami-Dade police have gone to the mail-sorting facility in Opa-Locka, Florida at the request of the FBI.
3:50 p.m.: New York Mayor Bill de Blasio said at the new conference that the packages are “definitely terrorism,” but that New Yorkers “will not be intimidated.”
3:45 p.m.: NYPD investigator James O’Neill tells reporters that, despite unnamed sources telling AP that the devices are a hoax, investigators continue to treat the packages as live devices that “have to be taken with the utmost seriousness.”
3:30 p.m.: FBI Assistant Director William Sweeney, Jr., said at a press conference in New York that a total of 10 suspicious packages have been discovered. He says an initial analysis determined that powder in one of the packages did not pose a biological threat.
11:10 a.m.: The FBI confirms in a tweet that packages addressed to Biden and De Niro are similar in appearance as the suspicious packages received by other prominent Democrats.
9:52 a.m.: The Associated Press says a second package addressed to Biden and similar to the other pipe bombs has been found at a Delaware postal facility.
8:25 a.m.: Reports emerge of an eighth suspicious package, this one addressed to former U.S. vice-president Joe Biden and found in a postal facility in his home state of Delaware.
Thursday, 5 a.m.: The New York Police Department is called a building associated with actor Robert De Niro in the city’s Tribeca neighbourhood for a report of a suspicious package.
Wednesday, 9:23 p.m.: The FBI confirms that two packages sent to Waters appear similar to those addressed to Soros, Obama, the Clintons, CNN and Holder, bringing the total number of known pipe bombs to seven.
1:33 p.m.: CNN reports that another suspicious package has been intercepted at a Congressional mail screening facility in Maryland. This package would turn out to be one of two addressed to Rep. Maxine Waters, a Democrat from California.
1:05 p.m.: Officials in New York say the package sent to CNN contained a live explosive and an envelope with white powder. It was addressed to former CIA director John Brennan, who does not work for CNN but does appear on other U.S. TV news outlets, often speaking negatively of Trump.
12:53 p.m.: Citing sources in law enforcement, CNN reports that the package at Wasserman Schultz’s office was sent there because the congresswoman’s office was listed as the return address, albeit with her name misspelled. The package was addressed to former U.S. attorney general Eric Holder.
12:04 p.m.: U.S. President Donald Trump makes his first public comment about the attempted bombings, saying he agrees “wholeheartedly” with Vice-President Mike Pence that the attacks “are despicable and have no place” in the United States.
11:43 a.m.: Police in Sunrise, Fla., say they are investigating a suspicious package. This package was sent to the office of Rep. Deborah Wasserman Schultz, a former chair of the Democratic National Committee.
10:40 a.m.: CNN reports that its newsroom has been evacuated as a precaution after a “suspicious device” was discovered in New York’s Time Warner Center.
10:18 a.m.: The White House issues a statement condemning the attempted bombings, saying “These terrorizing acts are despicable, and anyone responsible will be held accountable to the fullest extent of the law.”
9:42 a.m.: The U.S. Secret Service says it has intercepted potential explosive devices addressed to the homes of the Clintons and former president Barack Obama before they could reach those destinations.
9:31 a.m.: Speaking anonymously to The Associated Press, a U.S. official says the bomb at the Clintons’ home is believed to be linked to the one found at Soros’ compound.
9:28 a.m.: First reports come in about a bomb being found at the home of Bill and Hillary Clinton in a suburb of New York City. The U.S. Secret Service would later say that the package was discovered the previous night during mail screening.
Tuesday, 9:45 a.m.: The Associated Press reports that the package contained explosive power and other components of a bomb.
Monday, 3:45 p.m.: Authorities are called to the suburban New York home of George Soros, an 88-year-old billionaire philanthropist often at the centre of right-wing conspiracy theories. Federal authorities move the package to a nearby wooded area and detonate it.
With files from The Associated Press