FORT LAUDERDALE ― The man accused of mailing bombs to two former presidents and a building full of journalists wanted to “go back to the Hitler days” and to become a leader in the white supremacist movement, his former boss said.
From January 2017 to 2018, Sayoc worked as a pizza deliveryman for New River Pizza & Fresh Kitchen. For that job, he cruised around in a van decked out with stickers that let no light through the windows and featured photos of Trump and pictures of Democrats with crosshairs on their heads, among other disturbing images. He is accused of sending pipe bombs to former presidents Bill Clinton and Barack Obama, other Democratic leaders, and to CNN’s New York City office.
Debra Gureghian is the general manager of the pizza joint, which nestled between a liquor store and a funeral home. She said that as a lesbian, she was often a target of ridicule from Sayoc.
“I’m very proud of who I am, but he told me I was an abomination, God’s mistake,” Gureghian told HuffPost on Saturday. “And I should be on an island with Rachel Maddow and Ellen DeGeneres and Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton and he would nuke the island. He said I was an abomination, that I was gonna burn in hell.”
Asked why she never simply fired Sayoc, Gureghian said her business wasn’t in a financial position to pick and choose.
“This wasn’t like Morton’s Steakhouse or Carrabba’s where I could fire somebody like that,” she said. “I didn’t own the business. I would have liked nothing more than to fire him, because there was many days I went in the bathroom and cried. Seriously, that’s how bad it was.”
She and fellow general manager Teresa Palmer described Sayoc as a loner who never had friends visit or call, and who often stood silent with his arms folded until he was summoned to deliver a pizza. And despite his being mixed-race, Palmer said Sayoc thought of himself as a white man.
“He believed he was a white man living against everybody else,” Palmer told HuffPost.
More than that, Sayoc allegedly believed every other race should be exterminated.
“He talked about being an American Indian, but said he wanted to go back to the Hitler days,” Gureghian said. “He loved that regime, he loved that white supremacy. He wanted to be a foot solider, and would say that if we had that kind of mentality today, everybody would toe the line, everybody would fall into place.”
Though Sayoc claimed to be affiliated with Seminoles, the tribe denied any connection with him, the Miami Herald reported.
Gureghian recalled a conversation with Sayoc in which he allegedly said he would “eradicate the Jews” if he had the power to, along with lesbians, black people and Hispanic people.
“It’s basically the white supremacists, the white foot soldiers that he wants to follow and lead,” she said. “He wanted to be a leader.”
Sometimes the two got along, she said. He dressed nice enough, was articulate, and got the job done without much fuss.
“And that’s what he’d say to me: ‘I really like you Debra as a general manager, but as a person I hate your guts and hope you burn in hell,’” she recalled. “So I get a great pat on the back and a kick in the stomach in the same breath.”
Once, when it was raining out, Sayoc offered Gureghian a ride home. In his van she noticed the dirty clothes, fast food wrappers and vitamin pill bottles strewn all about. Then there were the dolls with severed heads.
“There were unopened bottles of alcohol, open bottles of alcohol. Dolls with their heads cut off, Barbie and Ken. He had said he was doing it for his nieces and nephews or something, he was fixing them.”
She said she remembered planning a possible escape from his van if it came to it.
“All I thought was, ‘Holy shit, is there a way out of here? Am I able to open the door? How do I tuck and roll? How do you tuck and roll if you’re going 45?’ Because at any given moment he could have snapped.”
Sayoc mainly worked the night shift, which allowed his eyesore of a van to be less noticeable. Palmer and Gureghian said they made him park it around the corner when he came in for work so no one would see.
But on Nov. 1, 2017, an employee at a cruise ship repair business snapped a photo of Sayoc’s van after the suspect delivered pizza one day.
“I said ‘what the F is all this about?’” the employee, who asked not to be named, told HuffPost. “I took a picture and sent it to my wife because she always deals with those crazy MAGA people.”
His wife is freelance journalist Lesley Abravanel, who posted the photo on her Twitter page at the time. Once news of the van hit on Friday, Abravanel and her husband recalled it right away.
“We see rabid Trump supporters all the time, and we see crazy folk in Florida on a daily basis, but you don’t think the nut case driving in the van is going to attempt to assassinate presidents, politicians and outspoken critics of the current president,” Abravanel told HuffPost. “It’s sickening. This country is a mess.”
Gureghian said Sayoc “loved” his van, and would meticulously cut out pictures from magazines to add to his collection.
“He was very, very proud of every single one of those stickers, taking time to put them exactly how they should line up together,” Gureghian said.
The cruise ship repair employee said his work never ordered from that pizza place again, partly because of Sayoc’s disturbing delivery vehicle.
“Also the food had gone down in quality,” he added.