October 26, 2018 / 6:43 PM / 19 days ago

UPDATE 3-From tweets to bombs, suspect's rage at Trump foes escalated

(New throughout, adds details of Sayoc’s background)

By Joseph Ax

NEW YORK, Oct 26 (Reuters) - Long before Cesar Sayoc was arrested on Friday for sending pipe bombs to critics of U.S. President Donald Trump, the 56-year-old former stripper had shown flashes of violent anger, threatening to bomb a power company and posting vitriolic screeds online.

In 2002, he was charged with threatening to bomb a power utility for trying to shut off his lights, telling a company representative it would be “worse than September 11th,” according to a Miami police report. Over the years, he was arrested for domestic violence, theft and fraud.

In recent months, Sayoc, a registered Republican, railed against Democrats like Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama on Facebook and posted venomous broadsides against liberal philanthropist George Soros on Twitter. One anti-Soros tweet came on Wednesday, two days after federal authorities say he mailed a bomb to Soros’ home.

Hours after federal authorities arrested him in Plantation, Florida, his social media posts and peripatetic work history began to offer the first sketch of a man whose rudimentary bombs launched a nationwide manhunt.

He is charged with sending package bombs to Obama, Clinton and other public figures Trump has frequently derided.

Sayoc has worked as a male stripper, a professional wrestler, a store manager and a club promoter, according to public records, social media profiles and interviews with people who interacted with him.

His white van, which authorities seized, had numerous pro-Trump signs in the windows, including a drawing depicting the president standing on top of a tank emblazoned with “Trump.” The van also had photos of Clinton and other Democrats with bullseyes superimposed on their faces.

It was not immediately clear where Sayoc has been living or working most recently. His social media profiles offered varying accounts that could not be verified.

David Cypkin, 39, a documentary filmmaker, recalled seeing the van parked outside a shopping center near his home for more than a year and as recently as this summer.

“It often had an open door or an open window, which led me believe there was somebody inside,” Cypkin said in a phone interview. “It stayed overnight. I saw it dozens of times.”

ANGRY POSTS

Sayoc’s social media accounts are filled with anti-Democrat sentiments and racist diatribes.

Two Twitter accounts that appear to belong to Sayoc are largely made up of retweeted posts condemning prominent Democrats, including Andrew Gillum, the Democratic candidate for Florida governor, and Soros.

Two weeks ago, Sayoc threatened a former Democratic congressional spokeswoman on Twitter after her appearance on Fox News. The tweet warned her to “hug your loved ones real close every time you leave” home. The woman, Rochelle Ritchie, reported him to Twitter, but the company found he had not violated any conduct rules.

A Twitter spokeswoman declined to comment, citing an ongoing law enforcement investigation.

A Facebook profile that appeared to belong to Sayoc featured videos and photos of him at multiple Trump rallies, including at least one in Florida. Several posts contained anti-Muslim statements.

He attended Brevard College in North Carolina and the University of North Carolina in Charlotte and played soccer for both schools, though he did not graduate either one, according to school representatives.

From 1996 to 2002, he worked as a male exotic dancer for Gold Productions Inc, according to a company employee who declined to give his full name.

Sayoc left to pursue a professional wrestling career and later started his own company. He is a promoter, booking agent and “live entertainment owner,” according to his LinkedIn profile.

He filed for bankruptcy in Miami in 2012, according to court records. At the time, Sayoc said he lived with his mother and had recently left a store manager job that paid less than $12,000 a year. He listed a $1,150 tax refund and a 2001 Chevy Tahoe vehicle as his only assets.

His LinkedIn page said he was pursuing veterinary medicine at High Point University in North Carolina, but a school spokesman said he did not attend the school.

One of his Twitter accounts said he worked at the Seminole Hard Rock Hotel & Casino in Florida, but the Seminole Tribe of Florida, which owns the casino, said it could find no evidence to confirm that.

Court records in Florida listed Sayoc’s birthplace as Brooklyn, New York. (Reporting by Joseph Ax Additional reporting by Jessica Resnick-Ault, Gina Cherelus, Peter Szekely and Daniel Trotta in New York; Alex Dobuzinkis in Los Angeles; and Sarah N. Lynch and Jonathan Landay in Washington Editing by Bill Berkrot)

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