Man suspected in parcel bombs case arrested in Florida

Cesar Altieri Sayoc in an August 2015 booking photo. Broward County Sheriff's Office/via REUTERS

By Zachary Fagenson and Bernie Woodall

PLANTATION, Fla. (Reuters) – FBI agents used DNA and a fingerprint to identify the Florida man suspected of sending at least 14 parcel bombs to critics of U.S. President Donald Trump days ahead of congressional elections.

Cesar Sayoc has been charged with five federal crimes including threats against former presidents and faces up to 58 years in prison if found guilty, U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions said at a news conference.

“We will not tolerate such lawlessness, especially political violence,” he said.

FBI agents arrested Sayoc, 56, in Plantation, Florida and also hauled away a white van plastered with pro-Trump stickers, the slogan “CNN SUCKS” and images of Democratic figures with red crosshairs over their faces.

A law enforcement officer checks a van which was seized during an investigation into a series of parcel bombs, in Plantation, Florida October 26, 2018 in a still image fro video. WPLG/Handout via REUTERS

A law enforcement officer checks a van which was seized during an investigation into a series of parcel bombs, in Plantation, Florida October 26, 2018 in a still image fro video. WPLG/Handout via REUTERS

FBI Director Christopher Wray told the news conference that fingerprints on a package sent to Representative Maxine Waters belonged to Sayoc.

He also said there could be other packages.

Announcing the arrest by the Federal Bureau of Investigation to a cheering audience at the White House, Trump said such “terrorizing acts” were despicable and had no place in the United States.

“We must never allow political violence to take root in America – cannot let it happen,” Trump said. “And I’m committed to doing everything in my power as president to stop it and to stop it now.”

Sayoc’s home address was listed in public records as an upscale gated apartment complex in the seaside town of Aventura, Florida.

According to the records, he is a registered Republican with a lengthy criminal past – including once making a bomb threat – and a history of posting inflammatory broadsides on social media against Trump’s political foes.

Sayoc was being held at an FBI processing center in Miramar, Florida, CNN said. He was expected to be taken to the Federal Detention Center in downtown Miami and will likely make his first appearance before a judge on Monday, according to former Assistant U.S. Attorney David Weinstein.

Police respond to a report of a suspicious package in the Manhattan borough of New York, New York, U.S., October 26, 2018. REUTERS/Mike Segar

Police respond to a report of a suspicious package in the Manhattan borough of New York, New York, U.S., October 26, 2018. REUTERS/Mike Segar

A federal law enforcement source said charges would likely be brought by federal prosecutors in Manhattan and Sayoc transferred to New York City.

(Reporting by Zachary Fagenson and Bernie Woodall; Additional reporting by Gina Cherelus, Gabriella Borter and Peter Szekely in New York, Mark Hosenball, Makini Brice, Susan Heavey, Sarah N. Lynch in Washington, and Brendan O’Brien in Milwaukee; Writing by Bill Tarrant; Editing by Lisa Shumaker and Cynthia Osterman)

Investigators seek clues whether Austin bomber worked alone

A law enforcement member is seen down the street from the home where Austin serial bomber Mark Anthony Conditt lived in Pflugerville, Texas, U.S., March 22, 2018. REUTERS/Loren Elliott

By Jon Herskovitz

AUSTIN, Texas (Reuters) – Federal investigators were on Friday seeking clues about what motivated the 23-year-old man they say was responsible for the deadly Texas bombing spree and whether he had help building or planting his bombs.

Mark Conditt, an unemployed man from the Austin suburb of Pflugerville, was behind bombings that killed two people and wounded five others over three weeks before he killed himself as police officers moved in on him on Wednesday, police in the Texas capital said.

Police said Conditt confessed to the bombings in a 25-minute video made on his cellphone hours before he blew himself up. The video showed a troubled young man, police said, but did not outline a clear motive for the attacks that began March 2.

As law enforcement officials continue to search for Conditt’s motive, they remain anxious to learn whether anyone assisted him build or plant his bombs.

“Even though the bomber’s dead, our focus is to ensure that he wasn’t working with anyone else,” said Michelle Lee, a spokeswoman for the Federal Bureau of Investigation’s San Antonio office.

Investigators sought further clues on Thursday from the Pflugerville home Conditt shared with his roommates. Bomb-making material was found in a room there and investigators questioned and released two of Conditt’s roommates, police said.

Conditt’s bombs primarily targeted Austin. Three were left as parcels outside victims’ homes, one by a sidewalk with a trip-wire mechanism attached and two shipped as FedEx parcels, which helped investigators unmask the bomber’s identity.

The second and third bombs went off while Austin was hosting its annual South by Southwest music, movies and tech festival, which draws about half a million people.

Conditt and his three siblings were home-schooled through high school, his mother wrote on Facebook. He attended classes at Austin Community College between 2010 and 2012, but did not graduate.

(Additional reporting by Brendan O’Brien in Milwaukee; Editing by Alison Williams)

Texas bombing suspect blows himself up as police close in

FILE PHOTO: Law enforcement personnel investigate an incident that they said involved an incendiary device in the 9800 block of Brodie Lane in Austin, Texas, U.S., March 20, 2018.REUTERS/Loren Elliott

By Jon Herskovitz

PFLUGERVILLE, Texas (Reuters) – An unemployed 23-year-old man suspected of a three-week bombing campaign in Texas that killed two people and injured five others before blowing himself up on the side of a highway was identified by local media on Wednesday.

The suspect was identified as Mark Anthony Conditt, of Pflugerville, Texas, according to the local CBS television affiliate and Austin American-Statesman newspaper, citing unnamed law enforcement sources. Reuters could not immediately confirm the suspect’s identity.

Public records showed Conditt’s age as 23. Officials had said the suspect was 24.

Police tracked the suspect to a hotel about 20 miles north of Austin, the state capital, and were following his vehicle when he pulled to the side of the road and detonated a device, killing himself, Austin Police Chief Brian Manley told reporters near the scene.

“The suspect is deceased and has significant injuries from a blast that occurred from detonating a bomb inside his vehicle,” Manley told reporters. He declined to further identify the suspect, except to say he was white.

Investigators had tracked him for a couple of days before closing in at an unidentified hotel in Round Rock, Texas, not for from his home in Pflugerville, Governor Greg Abbott told Fox News on Wednesday.

“We’ve known for a couple of days who the suspect likely was,” Abbott said. “Law enforcement is at his house in Pflugerville where we are learning whether or not that was the location he was making his bombs.”

The governor added that the suspect is believed to have lived with two roommates, who are not currently considered suspects, Abbott said. The suspect was not a military veteran, Abbott said.

Texas law enforcement officials blocked off the street where the suspect lived, not far from where the first bomb went off on March 2, killing one person.

Jay Schulze, a 42-year-old network engineer, said on Wednesday he lived a few houses away from the bombing suspect and that the suspect and his friends would hang out late at night.

“They would be out in back playing music and partying pretty late,” Schulze said.

While jogging on Tuesday night, Schulze noticed a heavy police presence in the area, with drones flying overhead. He said he was stopped briefly by a person who he thought was an FBI agent.


Manley said the suspect was believed to be responsible for six bombs around Austin, all but one of which detonated. He said the motivation for the bombings or whether the suspect had help was not yet known.

Manley warned residents to be cautious since it was not clear whether any more bombs had been left around the city.

The bombings killed two people and injured at least five others, unnerving residents of Austin, a city of some 1 million people. The first bombings occurred as the city was hosting the annual South By Southwest music, film and technology festival.

While officers waited for reinforcements before they arrested him, the suspect left the hotel and police followed.

The suspect pulled off the city’s main highway and two Austin police officers approached his vehicle when he set off the device. One officer fired at the vehicle and the other sustained a minor injury when the bomb went off, Manley said.

U.S. President Donald Trump congratulated authorities on Twitter: “Great job by law enforcement and all concerned!”

The first three devices were parcel bombs dropped off in front of homes in the Austin area. A fourth went off on Sunday night, apparently detonated with a trip wire also around Austin, and a fifth exploded inside a FedEx Corp <FDX.N> facility near San Antonio on Tuesday.

The bombings bewildered authorities, who by Sunday had publicly called on the bomber to contact them and explain why he was carrying out the attacks.

The first two bombs killed black men, raising fears that they were part of a hate crime, but investigators said the blasts that came later and were more random made that less likely.

Manley said investigators have no clear idea of what prompted the suspect to carry out the bombing, saying, “We do not understand what motivated him to do what he did.”

(Reporting by Jonathan Herskovitz; Additional reporting by Brendan O’Brien in Milwaukee and Jonathan Allen and Gina Cherelus in New York; Writing by Scott Malone; Editing by Larry King and Jeffrey Benkoe)

Fifth device explodes in Texas, seen linked to others

A FedEx truck is seen outside FedEx facility following the blast, in Schertz, Texas, U.S., March 20, 2018. REUTERS/Sergio Flores

By Jon Herskovitz and Jim Forsyth

AUSTIN/SCHERTZ, Texas (Reuters) – A package bomb blew up at a FedEx distribution center near San Antonio on Tuesday, the fifth in a series of attacks that have rocked Texas this month and sent investigators on a frantic search for what they suspect is a serial bomber.

The package filled with nails and metal shrapnel was mailed from Austin to another address in Austin and passed through a sorting center in Schertz, about 65 miles (105 km) away, when it exploded on a conveyer belt, knocking a female employee off her feet, officials said.

It was the fifth explosion in Texas in the past 18 days and the first involving a commercial parcel service.

“We do believe that these incidents are all related. That is because of the specific contents of these devices,” interim Austin Police Chief Brian Manley told members of the Austin City Council, the Austin American-Statesman reported.

A second package sent by the same person was discovered and turned over to law enforcement, FedEx Corp said in a statement. Meanwhile police had surrounded yet another FedEx location in the Austin area after discovering a suspicious package there.

The series of bombings have unsettled Austin, the state capital of some 1 million people, and drawn hundreds of federal law enforcement investigators to join local police. Schertz lies on the highway between Austin and San Antonio.

Speaking through the media, officials have appealed to the bomber to reveal the motives for the attacks. They have also asked the public for any tips, offering a $115,000 reward for information leading to the arrest and conviction of the culprit.

White House spokeswoman Sarah Sanders said in a tweet: “We are committed to bringing perpetrators of these heinous acts to justice. There is no apparent nexus to terrorism at this time.”

The White House did not respond to a request for comment on whether it was ruling out both international and domestic terrorism.

“This is obviously a very, very sick individual, or maybe individuals,” President Donald Trump told reporters. “Theseare sick people, and we will get to the bottom of it.”

Investigators were trying to come up with a theory or intelligence regarding the motive for the bombings or identity of the bomber or bombers, a U.S. security official and a law enforcement official told Reuters.

Members of the media move cameras around before the start of a news conference outside the scene of a blast at a FedEx facility in Schertz, Texas, U.S., March 20, 2018. REUTERS/Sergio Flore

Members of the media move cameras around before the start of a news conference outside the scene of a blast at a FedEx facility in Schertz, Texas, U.S., March 20, 2018. REUTERS/Sergio Flores

The Federal Bureau of Investigation was investigating the FedEx package explosion as if there were a connection to the Austin bombings, the law enforcement official said. Both sources declined to be identified.

The individual or people behind the bombings are likely to be highly skilled and methodical, said Fred Burton, chief security officer for Stratfor, a private intelligence and security consulting firm based in Austin.

“This is a race against time to find him before he bombs again,” Burton said.

The four previous explosions killed two people and injured four others.

The first three devices were parcel bombs dropped off in front of homes on in three eastern Austin neighborhoods. The fourth went off on Sunday night on the west side of the city and was described by police as a more sophisticated device detonated through a trip wire.

The four devices were similar in construction, suggesting they were the work of the same bomb maker, officials said.

Federal authorities at the scene of Tuesday’s blast offered few details, telling reporters their probe was in the early stages and that the building would be secured before investigators could gather evidence.

The FBI and the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF) were among those working with local officials in Austin, Schertz and San Antonio.

“We have agents from across the country. We have our national response team here. We have explosive detection canines here. We have intel research specialists,” Frank Ortega, acting assistant special agent in charge of the San Antonio ATF office, told reporters. “We’ve been working around the clock.”

(Additional reporting by Brendan O’Brien in Milwaukee and Mark Hosenball and Lisa Lambert in Washington; Writing Daniel Trotta; Editing by Jeffrey Benkoe and Tom Brown)