Federal and local authorities on Friday were examining suspicious packages that were mailed to U.S. Sen. Kamala Harris (D-Calif.) and billionaire political activist Tom Steyer, an outspoken critic of President Trump.
The discovery comes two days after another suspicious device addressed to Rep. Maxine Waters was found a Los Angeles mail facility, part of a string of mail attacks of prominent Democrats and critics of President Trump.
Harris’ spokeswoman, Lily Adams, said a postal employee discovered the package at a mail facility in south Sacramento and reported it to authorities. The post office is south of downtown, several miles from Harris’ Sacramento field office.
“Our office was informed that a suspicious package was addressed to the senator similar to those that have been sent to other elected officials,” Adams said.
By noon, helicopters were buzzing over the quiet residential neighborhood, and roads were blocked off for two streets in each direction around the small post office. Dozens of residents living nearby were evacuated.
A U.S. Postal Inspector command post van was parked in front of the building, while a Sacramento Fire Department ambulance was out back, where the investigation appeared centered.
“This neighborhood is usually really quiet. This is surprising,” said Jason Benik, who lives near the post office.
“The way things are going, it could be anything,” he said of the heated rhetoric in the country.
Sacramento County sheriff’s officials say the Harris package contained a legitimate explosive device, similar to those sent earlier in the week to high-profile political targets.
The FBI said its bomb technicians rendered the package safe. Sean Ragan, the special agent in charge of the Sacramento office, said the package is being sent to the FBI’s lab in Quantico, Va., while analysis is likely being sent to the FBI’s New York office. Authorities at the scene said the device could have been very dangerous.
“It was really good work by the postal employees in identifying that as suspicious and calling in law enforcement,” Ragan said Friday during a news conference with the Sheriff’s Department, postal inspectors and agents from the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives.
Investigators also were examining another package found in Burlingame, Calif., south of San Francisco, that was addressed to Steyer, who previously has advocated for the impeachment of President Trump and has more recently been pushing young voters to participate in the midterm elections.
On Friday, a Florida man was detained in connection with the spate of suspicious, potentially explosive devices that have been sent to prominent critics of Trump in recent days.
Ragan urged the public and postal workers to be on the lookout for other suspicious packages despite a suspect’s arrest.
“That is a concern of ours that there may be other packages,” he said.
Steyer warned the bomb scares are part of a wider assault on American democracy.
“We are seeing a systematic attack on our democracy and our rule of law that extends much further than just one isolated terrorist in Florida,” he said. “Whether it’s voter suppression, voter intimidation, attacks on our free press, gerrymandering or attempted violence — the trust and norms that are the actual basis for our civil society and political system are being eroded.”
Packages containing makeshift pipe bombs and addressed to high-profile political targets, including former President Obama and former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, set off a wave of panic Wednesday. Late in the day, a similar package addressed to Rep. Maxine Waters (D-Los Angeles) was found at a South L.A. mail facility.
FBI officials said the device was similar to those recovered in New York, Washington, D.C., and elsewhere, and consisted of a plastic pipe containing shrapnel and a pyrotechnic material.
Waters also was sent a suspicious package destined for her Washington office that was intercepted at a Maryland mail facility.
Despite the mailings, Waters — one of Trump’s fiercest critics — said she would not stop rallying or speaking out against the president.
“We have to keep doing what we’re doing in order to make this country right. That’s what I intend to do, and as the young people said, ‘I ain’t scared,’” she told the website Blavity.
On Friday, an FBI SWAT team took Cesar Sayoc Jr. into custody in Plantation, Fla., according to law enforcement officials.
FBI Director Christopher Wray said Sayoc, 56, initially was identified using a fingerprint found on one of the envelopes mailed to Waters. Investigators then linked two DNA samples taken from the devices sent to Obama and Waters to a sample taken from Sayoc in connection with an earlier arrest in Florida, Wray said.
In a criminal complaint filed against Sayoc, the Department of Justice identified 13 packages linked to him, including the package mailed to Harris.
Harris’ office said that amid the anxiety spread by the suspicious mailings, politicians should be focused on uniting Americans right now, now dividing them.
“At this moment, it is incumbent upon leaders across the political spectrum to take seriously the power they hold,” Adams said. “It is the responsibility of our leaders to use their role as public figures to elevate our discourse and bring people together.”
Times staff writers Sarah D. Wire in Washington, D.C, and Patrick McGreevy in Sacramento contributed to this report.