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O'Rourke Received Threatening Messages From Pipe Bomb Suspect Cesar Sayoc, His Campaign Says

Michael Stravato for The Texas Tribune
Democratic Senate candidate Beto O'Rourke speaks during a town hall meeting in Houston on Tuesday, Oct. 30, 2018.

Months before he was arrested on allegations of mailing bombs to several prominent Democrats, Cesar Sayoc sent threatening messages over Facebook to U.S. Rep. Beto O'Rourke, D-El Paso, a spokesman for O'Rourke's U.S. Senate campaign confirmed Wednesday.

"We received a threat via Facebook from that individual in April, a threat toward Beto, and we immediately reported it to the [U.S.] Capitol police," the spokesman, Chris Evans, said in a text message. "Then we turned over the message and the information and the threat to the FBI in July."

The messages, first reported by The Dallas Morning News, included pictures of O'Rourke's family and a warning to "hug your loved ones everytime you leave home. See you soon."

Last week, the FBI sent agents to O'Rourke's El Paso campaign office to check the mail.

Sayoc faces charges that include interstate transportation of explosives and illegal mailing of explosives. The bombs were sent to the homes or offices of former President Barack Obama, former Vice President Joe Biden, former presidential candidate Hillary Clinton and billionaire George Soros, who has donated to Democratic causes.

Asked about the threats during a campaign stop Wednesday afternoon in Austin, O'Rourke said he was confident Texans would rise above the animosity.

"We just got to continue to do our best to be good to one another, to try to lead by example," O'Rourke said, recalling a man who greeted O'Rourke earlier in the day in Irving and told him he voted straight-ticket Republican but just wanted to thank O'Rourke for the campaign he is running.

“That’s the Texas spirit," O'Rourke added. "I feel safe in this state. I feel like we do right and good by one another when given the chance, and we’re going to continue to do that."

Another possible Texas target was state Rep. Poncho Nevárez, D-Eagle Pass, who told The Texas Tribune on Wednesday that he heard from the FBI this week. On Tuesday morning, he said, agents came to his office in Eagle Pass to inform him that Sayoc had been searching for him online.

“The guy was Googling me, stalking me, trying to find out stuff about me — coming up with my address at the Capitol and at home,” Nevárez said.

Hours later on Tuesday, Nevárez was informed that a suspicious package had been mailed to his office at the Texas Capitol in Austin, resulting in the evacuation of several offices in the building. Law enforcement officials eventually said that “no viable threat was discovered.”

Nevárez said he had no idea why he might have been a target for Sayoc — but the coincidence was eerie. He added that he plans to step up security measures.

This article originally appeared in The Texas Tribune.

Emma Platoff is a breaking news reporter at The Texas Tribune. She previously worked at the Tribune as a reporting fellow and is a recent graduate of Yale University, where she studied English literature and nonfiction writing. She has also worked as the managing editor of the Yale Daily News and as an intern at The Philadelphia Inquirer and the Hartford Courant.
Patrick Svitek is a reporter for the Texas Tribune. He previously worked for the Houston Chronicle's Austin bureau. He graduated in 2014 from Northwestern University's Medill School of Journalism. He originally is from Fort Wayne, Indiana.
Matthew Watkins writes about higher education and the business of college sports for the Tribune. Previously, he has covered local government at The Dallas Morning News and The Eagle in Bryan-College Station. A Texas native, Matthew grew up in Austin and has lived in Houston, Dallas and Bryan. He earned his bachelor's degree from Texas A&M University in 2008.