NEW YORK (CBSNewYork/CBS Miami) – Federal authorities have arrested a man in Florida in connection to a series of package bombs that have been sent to top Democrats and President Trump critics, according to CBS News.
Word of the arrest comes as emergency responders found a suspicious package addressed to former Director of National Intelligence James Clapper, care of CNN, at a mail facility in Midtown Manhattan Friday morning.
The man was taken into custody at an auto parts store in Plantation, at about 10:30 a.m. A “loud explosion” was heard at the time of the arrest, possibly from a flash bang device used by FBI in the course of making the arrest.
A law enforcement source told CBS Miami the man is 56-years-old Cesar Sayoc, and they were led to him through DNA evidence. Sayoc reportedly has ties to New York and that he has a criminal history.
Authorities shut down 52nd Street between 8th and 9th Avenues while the investigation is underway. Numerous emergency vehicles could be seen on the street and people were kept from the area.
The package was safely removed and transported to Rodman’s Neck in the Bronx at around 10 a.m., though police warned the area would still have a strong police presence as the investigation continued.
“At apporximately 8:15 a.m. an alert postal worker who was aware of a series of suspected pipe bombs in packages going through the mail recognized a package that postal workers across the country had been warned about and shown photographs of in the system here at Radio City station,” NYPD Deputy Commissioner of Intelligence & Counterterrorism John Miller said. “This area was secured while emergency service and the NYPD Bomb Squad responded. The package was isolated in the post office. The Bomb Squad was able to use their equipment to conduct an X-ray. Inside they saw what appears to be a pipe bomb consistent with other devices we’ve seen this week contained in a package consistent with the packaging we’ve seen this week.”
Clapper served as Director of National Intelligence under President Barack Obama.
The discovery comes as investigators in Florida turned up another suspicious package targeting N.J. Sen. Cory Booker.
Both packages are similar to the previous packages targeting prominent Democrats.
The package targeting Booker was reportedly found at the Opa-locka mail facility in Florida, where sources tell CBS News some of the packages were processed.
Investigators have been focusing their search for clues there in the manhunt for whoever is behind the spate of mailings.
New Jersey Gov. Phil Murphy tweeted he was “saddened and angered” to learn of the device sent to Booker.
With addition of the devices sent to Clapper and Booker, 12 suspicious packages have been sent to ten prominent Democrats across the country.
All of the packages had a return address of Florida Congresswoman Debbie Wasseman Schultz, and federal officials confirm some of them originated in the state. They say postal inspectors have been poring through millions of pieces of mail, searching for similar packages.
Wasserman Schultz called the packages “sinister and evil.”
“We are working quickly to process and analyze relevant information from the suspicious packages recovered over the last few days,” said Bill Sweeney, the assistant director in charge of the FBI New York.
The FBI asked for help from the public in the investigation, requesting people call 1-800-CALL-FBI or submit a tip online by clicking here. The NYPD urged New Yorkers who might have information to call 1-888-NYC-SAFE.
“The U.S. Postal Inspection Service is working closely with our law enforcement partners in this ongoing investigation,” a spokesperson for the United States Postal Service said. “Any reports of suspicious mailings are taken very seriously, as they may impact the safety of postal employees and disrupt the processing of mail. We strive to provide a safe and secure mailsystem, preserve the integrity of the mail, and, most importantly, ensure a safe environment for postal employees, Postal Service customers, and the American public.”
The USPS said that it is employing a strategy that involves technology, screening and employee training to help keep the postal system safe.
The packages were addressed to people who have been critics of President Donald Trump, and the president has been critical of them, as well.
Early Friday morning, the president tweeted, “Funny how lowly rated CNN, and others, can criticize me at will, even blaming me for the current spate of Bombs and ridiculously comparing this to September 11th and the Oklahoma City bombing, yet when I criticize them they go wild and scream, ‘it’s just not Presidential!’”
“Republicans are doing so well in early voting, and at the polls, and now this ‘bomb’ stuff happens and the momentum greatly slows – news not talking politics. Very unfortunate, what is going on. Republicans, go out and vote!” Trump tweeted.
Two of the packages were sent to former Vice President Joe Biden.
“This division, this hatred, this ugliness – it has to end. Words matter,” Biden said Thursday.
“This is at a torrid level that is just unpalatable,” New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo said Friday. “This is whipping up people, and you will see people respond.”
“We need a new political sensitivity that says ‘there are boundaries,’” Cuomo added.
On Thursday morning, another device was discovered at the production offices of Robert De Niro in Tribeca.
CBS2’s Mobile 2 camera recorded exclusive video as the NYPD loaded it onto a containment vehicle.
De Niro released a statement Friday calling on Americans to vote.
“I thank God no one’s been hurt, and I thank the brave and resourceful security and law enforcement people for protecting us,” De Niro said. “There’s something more powerful than bombs, and that’s your vote. People must vote!”
All of the parcels were sent in similar packaging, and the devices were made to appear like active bombs. None of them detonated, which experts say will be helpfulin tracing where the materials came from.
Investigators are working to determine whether the bombs were just poorly designed or if they were simply meant to scare the recipients.
“We are treating them as live devices,” said NYPD Commissioner James O’Neill.
The devices are now being examined at the FBI’s laboratory in Quantico, Virginia.