How mail bombing suspect Cesar Sayoc was tracked down, what we know about the explosive devices

Cesar Sayoc, 56, of Florida, was arrested on Friday.

October 26, 2018, 4:46 PM

A fingerprint was a key to tracking down the man who allegedly mass-mailed explosive devices to top Democrats, CNN and other prominent figures, according to the FBI.

Suspect Cesar Sayoc, 56, of Aventura, Florida, was taken into custody Friday, authorities said.

Days after the first package was delivered, FBI investigators found a latent fingerprint from an envelope mailed to Democratic California Congresswoman Maxine Waters. The fingerprint belonged to Sayoc, FBI Director Chris Wray said at a news conference Friday.

PHOTO: Cesar Sayoc is seen in this undated booking photo, released by the Broward County Sheriff's office and provided by the Associated Press, in Miami.
Cesar Sayoc is seen in this undated booking photo, released by the Broward County Sheriff's office and provided by the Associated Press, in Miami.
Broward County Sheriff's Office via AP

"There is also a possible DNA connection between samples collected from pieces of two different IEDs [improvised explosive devices] mailed in separate envelopes and a sample previously collected from Sayoc in connection with an earlier arrest down in Florida," Wray said.

Once Sayoc's identity was established, cell phone tracking was used to find him, according to law enforcement officials briefed on the investigation.

Sayoc was arrested about 10:30 a.m. at an AutoZone store, two law enforcement officials said.

Wray praised investigators' quick efforts to find the suspected bomber, calling it "phenomenal work with the greatest pressure under an incredibly tight timeframe."

PHOTO: A police bomb-sniffing dog is deployed outside of the Time Warner Center after an explosive device was found this morning on Oct. 24, 2018 in New York.
A police bomb-sniffing dog is deployed outside of the Time Warner Center after an explosive device was found this morning on Oct. 24, 2018 in New York.
Spencer Platt/Getty Images

"We see unbelievable work like this on TV and in Hollywood, but to see it up close, in reality, is something to behold, and we are so proud for our team at the lab for their work in keeping people safe and helping to find the individual responsible," he added.

PHOTO: This frame grab from video provided by WPLG-TV shows a van parked in Plantation, Fla., Oct. 26, 2018, that authorities have been examining in connection with package bombs that sent to high-profile critics of President Donald Trump.
This frame grab from video provided by WPLG-TV shows a van parked in Plantation, Fla., Oct. 26, 2018, that authorities have been examining in connection with package bombs that sent to high-profile critics of President Donald Trump. A photo of President Trump appears on a decal on a side window along American flags and photos of Trump critics.
WPLG-TV via AP

Each improvised explosive device was made out of about 6 inches of PVC pipe, a small clock, a battery, wiring "and what is known as energetic material, which is essentially potential explosives and material that give off heat and energy through a reaction to heat, shock or friction," Wray said.

"These are not hoax devices," he stressed.

PHOTO: An x-ray of the explosive device that was intersected en route to former President Obama's residence in Washington, on Oct. 24, 2018,
An x-ray of the explosive device that was intersected en route to former President Obama's residence in Washington, on Oct. 24, 2018,
Obtained by ABC News
PHOTO: An x-ray of the explosive device recovered at Time Warner Center in New York on Oct. 24, 2018.
An x-ray of the explosive device recovered at Time Warner Center in New York on Oct. 24, 2018. According to law enforcement sources, the devices found in New York, Washington and Florida are all similarly constructed, using a digital clock as a switch, a powder charge and a battery power source.
obtained by ABC News
PHOTO: A photo of the device recovered from CNN by the NYPD bomb squad on Oct. 24, 2018, as confirmed by two law enforcement officials.
A photo of the device recovered from CNN by the NYPD bomb squad on Oct. 24, 2018, as confirmed by two law enforcement officials.
Obtained by ABC News

Sayoc made no formal statement upon his arrest and gave no information to authorities regarding how many more packages might exist, said law enforcement officials briefed on the investigation.

Sayoc is charged with five federal crimes including interstate transportation of an explosive, illegal mailing of explosives and threats against former presidents, Attorney General Jeff Sessions said. Sayoc faces up to 48 years in prison.

The charges may change, Sessions said at a news conference Friday afternoon.

PHOTO: Police stand guard in a closed street after a bomb alert at the Time Warner offices in New York, Oct. 24, 2018.
Police stand guard in a closed street after a bomb alert at the Time Warner offices in New York, Oct. 24, 2018.
Justin Lane/EPA/REX via Shutterstock

Authorities have recovered at least 14 suspicious packages in the widening investigation, with some of the latest targets being Democratic Sen. Kamala Harris of California, Democratic Sen. Cory Booker of New Jersey, former Director of National Intelligence James Clapper and billionaire philanthropist and liberal donor Tom Steyer.

Former President Barack Obama, former Vice President Joe Biden and former Secretary of State and presidential candidate Hillary Clinton are also among those targeted.

PHOTO: Series of Suspicious Packages Discovered
Series of Suspicious Packages Discovered
ABC News

President Donald Trump said the suspect will be prosecuted "to the fullest extent of the law."

"These terrorizing acts are despicable and have no place in our country," he said from the White House Friday. "We must never allow political violence to take root in America."

Sayoc has a long history of criminal charges, with at least eight arrests in Florida, including grand theft auto.

In 2002 he was arrested for threatening to discharge a destructive device, according to court documents.

Sayoc called Florida Power & Light and threatened to blow it up, saying "it would be worse than September 11th," according to the arrest record. He "also threatened that something would happen to the FPL representative if they cut his electricity," the record said.

He pleaded guilty in that case and was sentenced to probation.

ABC News Live

ABC News Live

24/7 coverage of breaking news and live events