Neighbors of bomb mailing suspect express shock that he may have lived down the hall
Cesar Sayoc fancied himself a “foot soldier” for white supremacy and bigotry, and his van was his mobile manifesto.
Stickers on the white vehicle depicted former President Barack Obama, a target of his suspected bomb deliveries, with an ape’s mask on his head. Others featured prominent Democrats with bull’s-eyes superimposed on their faces.
Inside the van, which served as the quiet man’s ideological canvas, Sayoc kept Barbie dolls with their heads missing, bottles of liquor and vitamins and dirty laundry.
His former boss at a Fort Lauderdale pizza restaurant said Sayoc, who worked there as a delivery driver during the graveyard shift, would openly mock her for her sexuality and proclaim his love for Adolf Hitler and ethnic cleansing.
“When he found out I was a lesbian the second day, he told me I should burn in hell and I was a deformity, that God made a mistake with me and I should go on an island with Hillary Clinton and Rachel Maddow and Ellen DeGeneres and President Barack Obama and all the misfits of the world,” said Debra Gureghian, the general manager at New River Pizza & Fresh Kitchen, where Sayoc worked from January 2017 to January 2018.
Gureghian, a lesbian, said she could not fire Sayoc for his racist and bigoted views. She said Sayoc appeared to have a split personality of sorts. In the same breath, the “dependable” employee would call her a pimple on a flea and still loyally follow her every command.
“My mother used to tell me all the time, be kind to people, maybe he’s sick, maybe he’s suffering, maybe something happened to him. And that’s what I kept saying,” she said. “There were days I would go in the back and cry.”
Sayoc carried around a “beautiful” hunting knife in a suede pouch, but never got into fights with co-workers and did not seem like a threat, Gureghian said.
If he had his way, though, the United States would wipe Hispanics, blacks and gays off the map.
“The Hispanics, they don’t speak any English, we got to get rid of them,” he would say. “And we got to get rid of the blacks, all they do is steal, and the gays and lesbians are never going to have any kids, so they’re deformed, we’ve got to get rid of them.”
“He was all about that,” Gureghian said. “It never escalated. What you got with Cesar was what you got. I never thought he would hurt me.”
The brashness of Sayoc’s van made daytime shifts inconceivable, Gureghian said. He would work three to five days a week, from 5 p.m. to midnight.
“There was laundry — dirty and clean — there was McDonald’s and taco boxes and bottles of liquor and vitamin bottles,” she said.
On a particularly stormy night, Sayoc gave his boss a ride home. That’s when she got a good look inside the van almost everyone in the area knew about.
“The only way you could see out was through the windshield,” she said. “Everything else was dark — no windows — I wanted to make sure there was a way out. At one particular moment, that switch can turn.”
Sayoc left to become a truck driver, Gureghian said.
“He was such a loner that he liked that lifestyle, maybe driving a truck all by himself,” she said.
Gureghian said she found her former employee to be a smart and articulate guy, although she was floored by the news that he was the prime suspect in a cross-country bomb scare.
“I can’t believe that he could pull this off,” she said. “That blows me away. They’re saying he had a disability. This guy was very articulate. When we spoke, he was very knowledgeable. He was very articulate, very well groomed.”
“Reliable, dependable, never had any customer complaints,” she said. “I couldn’t fire him. I’m not the owner. I’ve had other people threaten me when I had to fire them. I found him a threat to my emotional head, the toxicness, but I didn’t find him a threat that I was fearful of my life.”