Police arrest Aventura man in connection to various explosive devices sent to politicians

PLANTATION, FLA. (WSVN) - Police have arrested an Aventura man in connection to the various explosive devices and suspicious packages sent to high-profile Democrats across the country.

According to the Associated Press, three law enforcement officials identified the person in custody as 56-year-old Cesar Sayoc of Aventura, Friday morning.

Sayoc was arrested in Plantation, Friday morning. According to the FBI, investigators used DNA and fingerprint evidence to track down the suspect.

Surveillance video captured smoke, then a heavy police response in the parking lot of an AutoZone near State Road 7 and Southwest Sixth Street, at around 10:30 a.m.

The FBI, New York Police and local law enforcement officials could be seen conducting an investigation around a van covered in stickers, many of which supported President Donald Trump.

People who work in the area said they witnessed the arrest.

“As I approached the vehicle, I heard a very loud bang, and out of the peripheral vision of my eye, as I was standing outside, I saw a flash,” said witness Thomas Fiore. “It was consistent with what I believe to be a ‘flash-bang’ [grenade], usually deployed by law enforcement. As I was approaching the vehicle, the vehicle in question lit up with blue and red lights.”

A man who lives near the AutoZone said he was stunned to see the heavy police presence.

“I did see a lot of cops, a lot of police. I saw all the traffic stops, and I was wondering what was happening,” he said.

Authorities took Sayoc to the FBI field office in Miramar. He was then transported to the Federal Detention Center in downtown Miami for further processing.

Police used flashing lights and sirens to bring Sayoc in through streets that were closed for construction. Sayoc was riding in one of two black SUVs with tinted windows that went up sidewalks in order to pull up to the holding facility as quickly as possible.

Department of Justice officials confirmed the arrest at a press conference, Friday afternoon.

“As Attorney General [Jeff Sessions] has confirmed, we have arrested Cesar Sayoc in connection with this investigation,” said FBI Director Christopher Wray.

FBI agents inside the AutoZone focused on computers that were not connected to the internet but hold details about customers and products. They left about an hour later without comment.

The store remains closed, with a sign on the door noting it will reopen Saturday morning at 7 a.m.

“We have problems. We have to be civilized,” said an onlooker outside of the store. “People need to have their opinion, and there’s no reason to be angry.”

Meanwhile, Sayoc’s van was taken to the FBI’s Miramar facility covered with a blue tarp.

Fiore said he is relieved there has been an arrest in the case.

“I was actually proud, proud of the law enforcement community, the way that they all came together,” he said. “This appeared to be a flawless operation.”

Sayoc has been arrested at least twice before in Miami-Dade County over the years.

He also worked at a Hollywood Papa John’s Pizza. Many employees in the plaza where the restaurant is located said he would often speak negatively on multiple matters, including the Clintons and CNN.

“He was very extreme. They didn’t wanna talk to him because he was a loner. He kind of went into the van, he kept to himself. They felt bad vibes from him,” said one man.

Sayoc’s arrest comes after 13 packages and explosive devices were received by prominent Democrats, including Barack Obama, Hillary Clinton, U.S. Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz and critics of President Donald Trump like actor Robert De Niro and billionaire democratic supporter George Soros, according to Wray.

So far, no one was injured by the packages.

Trump addressed the investigation into the bomb packages during a press conference not long after the arrest, saying, “We must never allow political violence take root in America” and Americans “must unify.”

The investigation is far from over. Friday afternoon, Broward Sheriff’s Office deputies were spotted outside of the U.S. post office in Plantation.

“We’re still analyzing the devices in out laboratory,” said Wray. “These are not hoax devices.”

Sayoc has been charged with five federal crimes, including illegal mailing of explosives and threats against former U.S. presidents. If convicted, he faces up to 58 years in prison.

Sayoc is scheduled to appear in federal court in Miami at 2 p.m. on Monday.

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