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