Bomb suspect found iden­tity in re­sent­ment

The Beaufort Gazette (Sunday) - - Stay Connected - BY JACK HEALY, JULIE TURKEWITZ AND RICHARD A. OPPEL JR.

CE­SAR SAYOC WILL MAKE HIS FIRST COURT AP­PEAR­ANCE NEXT WEEK, WHERE AD­DI­TIONAL DE­TAILS MAY BE RE­VEALED ABOUT A MO­TIVE.

Ce­sar Sayoc was a volatile per­son des­per­ate for at­ten­tion.

He styled him­self as a body­builder, en­tre­pre­neur, mem­ber of the Semi­nole tribe and ex­otic-dance pro­moter in the sta­tushun­gry beach­front world of South Florida. In re­al­ity, Sayoc, a fer­vent sup­porter of Pres­i­dent Don­ald Trump who has been charged with mail­ing pipe bombs to promi­nent Democrats, was a bank­rupt loner who spewed anger and spent years liv­ing in and out of a van, ac­cord­ing to court doc­u­ments and in­ter­views with peo­ple who knew him.

Sayoc, 56, of Aventura, Fla., faces five fed­eral charges in con­nec­tion with a mail bomb plot that spurred a week­long, coastto-coast in­ves­ti­ga­tion that con­tin­ued even after he was taken into cus­tody Fri­day as in­ves­ti­ga­tors scru­ti­nized ad­di­tional sus­pi­cious pack­ages in­tended for Democrats, ac­cord­ing to As­so­ci­ated Press re­ports.

Sayoc will make his first court ap­pear­ance next week, where ad­di­tional de­tails may be re­vealed about a mo­tive. Jus­tice Depart­ment of­fi­cials credit DNA, a fin­ger­print match and mis­spellings for the key break in the case.

Sayoc went on racist, anti-gay tirades at the Fort Laud­erdale pizza shop where he worked as a night-shift de­liv­ery­man in 2017, telling his man­ager, a les­bian, that she and other gay peo­ple along with Democrats should all be put onto an is­land and then “nuked.” At a re­u­nion event in 2015 with his col­lege soc­cer team, he brow­beat for­mer team mem­bers with racist, sex­ist con­spir­acy the­o­ries.

And when Sayoc’s mother and sis­ters urged him to seek men­tal-health treat­ment, he fu­ri­ously re­pelled their ef­forts and told his mother he hated her, said Ron­ald Lowy, a lawyer for the fam­ily who also rep­re­sented Sayoc in a 2002 case in which he threat­ened to bomb an elec­tric com­pany dur­ing a dis­pute over a bill. He re­fused to even lis­ten when his mother re­minded Sayoc that he was Filipino and Ital­ian, not Semi­nole, Lowy said.

“He had tremen­dous anger slowly boil­ing up, and re­sent­ment, and felt ‘less than,’ ” Lowy said. “He lacked an iden­tity. He cre­ated a per­sona.”

When they first met, Lowy said, Sayoc brought in a scrap­book filled with notes and pho­to­graphs he had col­lected from wrestlers, body­builders and strip­pers, ta­ble scraps from a world he idol­ized.

“He comes across like a 15-year-old,” Lowy said. “He has a to­tal lack of ma­tu­rity.”

Lowy said that Sayoc’s fam­ily mem­bers were Democrats and that Sayoc seemed to have no out­spo­ken par­ti­san views dur­ing the 2002 case. But he said that Trump’s an­gry rhetoric and his ap­peals to the “for­got­ten man and woman” dur­ing the 2016 cam­paign seemed to strike a deep chord with Sayoc, whose fa­ther had aban­doned the fam­ily when he was a child.

“He was look­ing for some type of parental fig­ure and be­ing a loner, be­ing an out­cast, be­ing the kind of per­son Trump speaks to, I think he was at­tracted to Trump as a fa­ther fig­ure,” Lowy said.

Sayoc reg­is­tered as a Repub­li­can and posted pho­to­graphs of him­self wear­ing a “Make Amer­ica Great Again” hat at one of Trump’s ral­lies.

On Twit­ter and Face­book, he railed against for­mer Pres­i­dent Barack Obama and Oprah Win­frey with mis­spelled ra­cial ep­i­thets, threat­ened for­mer Vice Pres­i­dent Joe Bi­den and praised Trump and con­ser­va­tive causes. His so­cial-me­dia feeds were an elec­tronic ver­sion of the white van carted away by law-en­force­ment of­fi­cials Fri­day morn­ing, which was cov­ered in stick­ers prais­ing Trump, con­demn­ing lib­er­als and putting cross-hairs over an im­age of Hil­lary Clin­ton.

While Sayoc’s sis­ters are suc­cess­ful and his mother ran her own cos­met­ics busi­ness, Sayoc bumped be­tween jobs, ar­rests, apart­ments and his van. He once lived in a com­fort­able neigh­bor­hood of sin­gle-story homes in the Co­ral Ridge Isles neigh­bor­hood of Fort Laud­erdale, but lost the home in a 2009 fore­clo­sure.

He had a long record of sho­plift­ing and theft charges. Once he was ar­rested while car­ry­ing $19,000 worth of cash.

In May 2015, he told po­lice that some­one had bro­ken into his van while he was work­ing out at LA Fit­ness – where he had been show­er­ing – and stole about $45,000 worth of suits and cos­tumes he needed for his busi­ness. It is un­clear whether he ac­tu­ally had any­thing worth that much in the van, or whether he was mak­ing the re­port as pre­text to make a false in­sur­ance claim.

Even then, he had an affin­ity for Trump: The Broward Sher­iff’s Of­fice re­port notes that of the 139 pieces he said were taken, 11 were the pres­i­dent’s cloth­ing brand.

Scott B. Saul, a de­fense lawyer who rep­re­sented Sayoc when he wanted to loosen the terms of his pro­ba­tion sev­eral years ago, said Sayoc’s be­hav­ior sug­gested some­thing was amiss, re­count­ing that “he came across pas­sive, and with a sense of in­se­cu­rity.”

“He ap­peared to be his own is­land,” he said.

Peo­ple who en­coun­tered Sayoc in re­cent years said their in­ter­ac­tions were of­ten an­gry or un­com­fort­able.

“He loved Adolf Hitler; he talked about Adolf Hitler a lot,” said De­bra Gureghian, 56, a man­ager at the Fort Laud­erdale pizza shop where Sayoc worked for about a year in 2017. “He would say, ‘I like his pol­i­tics, we should have more peo­ple like him.’ ”

AP

A frame grab from video pro­vided by WPLG-TV shows FBI agents es­cort­ing Ce­sar Sayoc, in sleeve­less shirt, in Mi­ra­mar, Florida, on Fri­day. He is ac­cused of mail­ing pipe bombs to more than a dozen of Pres­i­dent Don­ald Trump’s most promi­nent crit­ics.

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