Pipe Bomb Suspect Cesar Sayoc’s Twitter Account Sent Threatening Images to Celebrities for Months. Why Wasn’t It Suspended?
The apparent Twitter account of Cesar Sayoc, the man suspected of sending at least 13 pipe bombs to intended victims including former President Obama, former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, and former Vice President Joe Biden, was rife with threats, graphic images, and other warning signs. The account, @hardrock2016, has since been taken down by Twitter.
While Twitter didn’t confirm the account belonged to Cesar Sayoc, its rhetoric, biography, and other details match what is known about the suspect, including images from decals covering the windows of a van that reportedly belonged to him. A Twitter spokesperson declined to comment on Sayoc or the account, citing an ongoing law-enforcement investigation, but the company confirmed that the account Fortune identified was permanently suspended for violating Twitter rules.
The account was opened April 2016 and primarily tweeted out political memes. Then on July 8, 2018, it began replying to posts made by prominent accounts such as TMZ, and began tweeting threatening and horrific images at a number of celebrities, politicians, and people on July 13. Its tweets included pictures of decapitated animals, images of crocodiles with severed human limbs, screen grabs of TV news reports about missing people in Florida, and tarot cards showing the word “death.”
One targeted person, Rochelle Ritchie, who has worked as a media commentator and Democratic Party strategist, reported the account to Twitter on Oct. 11. She posted the response after Sayoc emerged as a suspect: Twitter had told her that there was no violation.
Sayoc was taken into custody the morning of Oct. 26. The Twitter account was suspended hours later.
The Twitter account sent threatening messages to a wide array of public figures including Biden, billionaire philanthropist George Soros (tweeting, “you will vanish”), actor and director Ron Howard, actor Jim Carrey, MIT Media Lab founder Nicholas Negroponte and Portland, Ore. Mayor Ted Wheeler. The Twitter account also attacked Sarah Jeong, a journalist now on staff as a technology writer at the New York Times opinion section. Jeong became a right-wing media target this summer after being hired by the Times and some of her older tweets were criticized.
The account also raged about Debbie Wasserman Schultz, a House member from Florida and former head of the Democratic National Committee. Her office was used as the return address on the packages sent around the country to intended victims including Obama, Clinton, former CIA John Brennan, and others. Posts by the account misspelled Wasserman Schultz’s name, an error that also appeared on at least one of the mail bombs. However, the Twitter typos were not consistent with lettering on the envelopes.
The account’s tweets also frequently invoked a tribal nation, noting to Ron Howard, “We Unconquered Seminole Tribe are going answer your threats pathetic scum.” The Seminole Tribe said that Sayoc had no affiliation with the tribe, according to the Miami Times.