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What's New In The Pipe Bomb Investigation

Oct 27, 2018
Originally published on October 28, 2018 11:25 am
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MICHEL MARTIN, HOST:

We are also learning more today about the man in Florida charged with sending improvised explosive devices to former President Barack Obama and other prominent Democrats. Fifty-six-year-old Cesar Sayoc will appear in federal court on Monday to face charges related to the mailing of at least 13 pipe bombs. People who know Sayoc say he vacillated between kindness and bombast. NPR's David Schaper reports from the Fort Lauderdale area where Sayoc worked and lived.

DAVID SCHAPER, BYLINE: Cesar Sayoc's white van, which was plastered with political posters, was a familiar sight in many parts of South Florida. That's where Sayoc himself bounced around from job to job in the humid, sticky strip malls from north of Miami up to West Palm Beach. One of those places is the parking lot of the Ultra Gentlemen's Club in West Palm, where Sayoc parked while working as a deejay into the wee hours Friday morning before his arrest.

LAZARO SEGURA: Like, it was a lot of stickers on it. I barely look at it. I know - he got a lot of Trump stuff, like hate about CNN - stuff like that - like, Republican stuff.

SCHAPER: Lazaro Segura owns the food truck that also sits in that parking lot. And, despite the van's images of Hillary Clinton and other Democrats in rifle scope crosshairs, Segura says Sayoc himself never seemed threatening.

SEGURA: Not really, because he always - he was a nice guy. Like, he would say hi to everybody. He greeted people at the door. I've never seen him - he never spoke about politics - nothing.

SCHAPER: Sayoc did speak his mind at New River Pizza and Fresh Kitchen in Fort Lauderdale, where he worked as a delivery driver until earlier this year.

DEBRA GUREGHIAN: He would start talking about Hitler. He loved Hitler - loved Hitler. And we should go back to that society with Hitler.

SCHAPER: Debra Gureghian was Sayoc's boss at the pizza place. She remembers he often said people who are black, jewish, gay and transgender all should be eradicated. But, at the same time, she says Sayoc showed her a lot of respect, even though she is gay.

GUREGHIAN: He liked me. He told me, thanks for being so appreciative. Thanks for giving me this shift. Thanks for letting me go home early. Oh, absolutely. That's why it's - I had to deal with two sides of the coin.

SCHAPER: Sayoc's contradictory nature shows up in social media posts, where he praised President Trump and Republicans but spewed hate toward Democrats and spread conspiracy theories. His former attorney tells NPR he believes Sayoc is mentally ill, adding that his family tried to convince him to get treatment, but he refused. An amateur bodybuilder and onetime stripper, Sayoc frequently told acquaintances stories of working as a big club promoter in New York and elsewhere, that he was of Seminole ancestry and countless other tall tales that turned out not to be true.

But, despite tales of a past that didn't add up and some hateful political rhetoric, Deborah Gureghian says it's hard to reconcile his arrest with the dependable, reliable and nonconfrontational employee that she knew.

GUREGHIAN: Now, if anybody ever told me it was him, I would be, like, never in a million years - never in a million years. No. No.

SCHAPER: Gureghian says the country right now seems broken. She's hoping the shocking events that have unfolded here will lead some to start to treat those with whom they have differences with a little more compassion and respect.

David Schaper, NPR News, Fort Lauderdale. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.