How bomb­ing sus­pect got caught by FBI: One fin­ger­print, DNA match

USA TODAY Weekend Extra - - NEWS - Kevin John­son

WASH­ING­TON – Christo­pher Wray is that rare kind of govern­ment fig­ure not eas­ily driven to hy­per­bole.

Yet Fri­day’s swift res­o­lu­tion of a se­rial bomb­ing cam­paign had even the plain­spo­ken FBI di­rec­tor in­vok­ing Hol­ly­wood and taut tele­vi­sion drama as he ex­plained how fed­eral au­thor­i­ties iden­ti­fied and cap­tured a 56-year-old Florida man as its lone sus­pect in a se­ries of par­ti­san at­tacks that trans­fixed the na­tion for most of the week.

The for­tu­nate break in­ves­ti­ga­tors were search­ing for, Wray said, ar­rived some­time Wed­nes­day at the FBI Lab­o­ra­tory in Quan­tico, Vir­ginia, with the first two of the 13 un­ex­ploded de­vices to be de­liv­ered for anal­y­sis.

In short or­der, the de­vices – one ad­dressed to Pres­i­dent Barack Obama and the other to Rep. Max­ine Wa­ters, DCalif. – were turned over to bomb tech­ni­cians and an­a­lysts who made a cru­cial dis­cov­ery. On the padded manila en­ve­lope con­tain­ing the de­vice des­tined for Wa­ters was a fin­ger­print.

By Thurs­day, in­ves­ti­ga­tors had matched the sin­gle print to a man with a lengthy crim­i­nal record in Florida, Ce­sar Sayoc. The link was enough to in­still con­fi­dence that a res­o­lu­tion was near, but there was more.

Fur­ther ex­am­i­na­tion of both the Wa­ters and Obama de­vices re­vealed DNA among the com­po­nents of the pipe bombs, crudely con­structed of 6-inch PVC cylin­ders, small timers, bat­ter­ies, wir­ing and “en­er­getic ma­te­rial.”

Late Thurs­day night, Wray said, fed­eral in­ves­ti­ga­tors called on col­leagues from the Florida De­part­ment of Law En­force­ment to com­pare the re­cov­ered DNA with ex­ist­ing sam­ples taken from Sayoc in pre­vi­ous crim­i­nal cases.

An­other match.

And fed­eral au­thor­i­ties – just four days af­ter the first de­vice was found at the New York home of bil­lion­aire phi­lan­thropist and Demo­cratic contributor Ge­orge Soros – were ready to move in.

“This is phe­nom­e­nal work, with the great­est pres­sure, un­der an in­cred­i­bly tight time frame,” Wray said at a Jus­tice De­part­ment brief­ing Fri­day. “We see un­be­liev­able work like this on TV shows and in Hol­ly­wood, but to see it up close, in re­al­ity, is some­thing to be­hold.”

For Wray and At­tor­ney Gen­eral Jeff Sessions, who have been the fre­quent tar­gets of blis­ter­ing crit­i­cism from Pres­i­dent Don­ald Trump, the quick set­tle­ment of such a dis­turb­ing case was not lost in the mo­ment.

“This is a demon­stra­tion of the skill, the ca­pa­bil­ity and de­ter­mi­na­tion of our Amer­i­can law en­force­ment,” Sessions said Fri­day.

Said Wray: “We’ve caught the right guy . ... It’s ex­actly what the doc­tor or­dered.”

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