Bombing suspect claimed he didn't want to hurt anyone, but FBI Director says he could have

CNN is reporting that bomb-making suspect Cesar Sayoc was initially cooperating with investigators and told them he didn’t intend to hurt anyone. However, officials say that while tests are still being done these were not “hoax devices.”

Sayoc was initially somewhat cooperative, the official said. He told investigators that the pipe bombs wouldn’t have hurt anyone and that he didn’t want to hurt anyone.

Sayoc has now retained a lawyer so the questioning has ceased, the official said.

All of this stems from the fact that none of the bombs went off. There were multiple stories yesterday that at least some of the bombs were incapable of detonating. That led to some speculation that perhaps this was by design, i.e. maybe these were “hoax bombs” intended to scare people but not actually harm them. But at a press conference today FBI Director Christopher Wray said the devices were not “hoax bombs.” From CNN:

“Though we’re still analyzing the devices in our laboratory, these are not hoax devices,” he said.

The devices consisted of “roughly six inches of PVC pipe, a small clock, a battery, some wiring and what is known as energetic material, which is essentially potential explosives and material that give off heat and energy through a reaction to heat, shock or friction,” Wray said

Wray also said, “As far as the devices themselves, it’s important to say, as is in the complaint, that even if the devices—and we’re still trying to determine whether or not they were functional, as they say, so we’re doing all kinds of analysis on that to make a definitive determination, but they did contain energetic material which, if subjected to the right combination of heat, or shock, or friction, could be dangerous to the public.”

I’m hearing a bit of a mixed message. On the one hand, there’s no doubt there was material inside these that could have exploded. So they aren’t hoaxes in the sense of an empty pipe with wires would have been a hoax. On the other hand, it’s still not clear that any of these was actually capable of blowing up intentionally. They had timers but those weren’t connected to opening the packages. So there may yet be an element of theater to these devices even while it’s true that the bombs really could blow up under the right circumstances. Again, that’s how it looks at this moment based on contradictory stories, but it could look different when the FBI releases more info.

I think it’s also possible some of this is about protecting the case. If the FBI director were to suggest these bombs were all duds, no doubt Sayoc’s defense attorney would cite that as a mitigating factor in his eventual trial.

We’ll have to wait and see what their analysis concludes but for now the suspect’s claim that he didn’t want to hurt anyone is undercut by the fact that he sent explosive material all around the country.

Here’s the clip of Wray describing the devices:

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