Crime

‘A maniac Trump supporter threw piss on us.’ It was the alleged Florida pipe bomber

Indiana Parra was riding her moped with her girlfriend, Rimbow Gomez, when a white Dodge Ram van covered in bizarre political stickers pulled alongside.

The driver — a middle-aged man — began yelling at the younger couple.

Without warning, he threw a cup of urine from the driver’s side window. It missed the moped, which was pulling away. But the man grabbed a second cup and threw it, too. This time, the liquid splashed all over Gomez, sitting behind Parra. The smell was putrid.

“Get off the road,” he screamed, using a hateful slur for lesbians. Then he started to cackle.

“He had this evil laugh that I will never forget,” Gomez told the Miami Herald in an interview Thursday. It was the kind of laugh “that you only [hear] in like scary movies,” she said.

After that, the man started to chase them eastbound down Pembroke Road in southeast Broward County. Parra pulled a U-turn on the moped trying to escape. The man followed, swerving his van in an apparent attempt to run them off the road.

Parra, 32, and Gomez, 30, didn’t know it at the time, but their crazed assailant was Cesar Altieri Sayoc Jr., a South Florida man now accused of sending 16 pipe bombs to critics of President Donald Trump. Sayoc, 56, faces 30 charges in federal court related to domestic terrorism. He was arrested on Oct. 26, four days after the first pipe bomb was discovered in the mailbox at the home of prominent philanthropist and Democratic mega-donor George Soros. No one was hurt, although the nation was transfixed as federal agents led a manhunt for the perpetrator.

Sayoc, a bodybuilder and strip-club bouncer, appeared to live full time in the van, perhaps explaining his ready access to urine. His impossible-to-miss vehicle was covered in a collage of stickers, some of which read “Dishonest media,” “CNN Sucks,” and “I have a dream. Liberal meltdown.” He was a huge Trump fan, other stickers and his social-media accounts showed. Some stickers had images of Hillary Clinton with a target over her face.

His connection with reality seemed tenuous, according to those who knew him. They said he spewed racist, homophobic and anti-Semitic rants.

He has pleaded not guilty and is set to be tried in New York.

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Cesar Sayoc was a man of many mugshots, owing to his many arrests. Miami Herald file

The road-rage incident happened the evening of March 16, according to a police report filed that day and released to the Herald by the Hollywood Police Department on Thursday. Court records do not show that he was ever charged or arrested for what police termed a potential “aggravated battery” in the report.

Parra and Gomez were lucky that day. They escaped by steering the moped into a warehouse parking lot. Sayoc kept going past them. The couple called the police. But no one came. So they went to the nearby Hollywood Police Department to report the incident. Gomez’s black hoodie was soaked in urine.

At first, she said, the officer seemed not to take them seriously. But when he smelled the odor, he took their report. “ ‘A maniac Trump supporter threw piss on us,’ ” the officer reported the women as saying.

Gomez and Parra had evidence. They had given police Sayoc’s license plate. They had a description of him and his vehicle. After a few minutes, a crime-scene technician came to collect their DNA and also to take a cutting of the soiled sweatshirt. The samples were sent to the Broward Sheriff’s Office crime lab, according to the report.

Then, Gomez and Parra heard nothing. Nothing until October, when Hollywood police called to tell them that Sayoc had been arrested for the pipe-bombing attempts.

Why Sayoc wasn’t arrested for the road-rage attack isn’t clear. But it’s possible a bureaucratic snafu played a role. The police report noted that the intersection where Sayoc first approached the women, at Pembroke Road and State Road 7, “falls within the jurisdiction of the Broward Sheriff’s Office or the city of Miramar,” and that the victims were urged to go to those departments.

Spokespeople for Hollywood police did not immediately respond when asked Thursday evening if the department had further investigated the allegations or passed them on to another police agency.

Had officers arrested Sayoc at the time, Gomez said he may have been stopped from mailing the bombs.

“He probably would not have had the opportunity to do the sh-t he did,” she said.

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The van that Cesar Sayoc drove was festooned with stickers that hailed President Donald Trump and attacked his critics. The Sun Sentinel

Sayoc is listed as the driver in the report Hollywood police provided to the Herald. The incident was included in a batch of documents released after reporters requested all records that mentioned Sayoc and his various aliases. The Herald made similar requests to every police department in Miami-Dade, Broward and Palm Beach counties.

Those records show Sayoc had dozens of run-ins with police departments around South Florida since the 1990s. Most of them were minor: traffic tickets, parking citations, car accidents and Sayoc himself reporting burglaries or other crimes. Others were far more troubling or bizarre. Many of those incidents happened in Hollywood, where Sayoc reported living for several years.

For instance, in 1994, Hollywood police were called after a condominium superintendent said Sayoc spit in his face and knocked off his glasses. Sayoc had pushed the man to the floor and kicked and punched him in the back, right shoulder and the neck, according to the incident report. At one point, Sayoc grabbed the man’s head, knocking it against the elevator and choking him by the neck. The battery stopped when Sayoc’s grandparents intervened, according to the report.

Sayoc told police that the superintendent had come at him with a mop first.

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In a photo provided by CNN, the bomb that was addressed to former CIA Director John Brennan and delivered to CNN’s New York offices on Wednesday, Oct. 24, 2018, is shown. Courtesy of CNN NYT

Eight years later, Hollywood police acted on an anonymous tip that five Shar-Pei dogs had been left sweltering in a car parked outside a Dave & Buster’s arcade on a 90-plus degree day.

“The dogs all had their tongues hanging out and were breathing quite heavily,” an officer wrote in a report. “Upon touching the dogs, I could feel that the dogs were extremely hot and possibly overheating.”

A witness said the dog’s owner was working out at a nearby gym but that he did not want to get involved because the owner was “a nut.” Sayoc then came out of the gym. He told officers he had done nothing wrong because he was “well-versed” in the care of Shar-Peis. But an animal control officer wrote him a citation for five counts of animal cruelty. Each count carried a $200 fine, according to the report.

Sayoc was “evasive” when questioned about where he lived, the officer noted. But he did state that “he frequently drives around with the dogs in [the] car and wherever he goes, he leaves the dogs in the car,” a black Ford Explorer.

According to the report, the Ford’s interior was riven with chicken wire and the dogs were chained and padlocked inside the car. “All of the dogs were, in fact, somehow tangled up in the chicken wire fence, as well as with each other’s chains and had very little movement available to them,” the report stated.

Sayoc also made a bizarre phone call, according to the officer, who noted Sayoc’s “aggressive personality.”

Speaking extremely loudly, Sayoc told the person on the other side of the call that the cops were “wasting my time.”

“They’re going to make me to go to court ... and this is why we celebrate our Thanksgiving on 9/11,” he said inexplicably.

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Cesar Sayoc was photographed at a rally of President Donald Trump’s supporters. Miami Herald file

More recently, Sayoc was charged with several thefts.

In 2014, employees at a Hollywood Home Depot called police after Sayoc took copper piping and tried to leave without paying for it. He was charged with petit theft. The year before, he allegedly stuffed two black suit jackets, two pairs of black slacks and a pair of blue jeans — total value: $305 — under the clothes he was wearing before leaving a JC Penney in Coral Springs.

When a store employee and loss prevention officer attempted to stop him, Sayoc ran. The employees managed to get him on the ground, but he tried to stand up, kneeing the loss prevention officer in the side.

Sayoc had to be held down until police arrived.

Nicholas Nehamas: 305-376-3745, @NickNehamas
Caitlin Ostroff: 305-376-4430, @ceostroff
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