HAITI - The latest suspect detained amid the search for the masterminds and assassins in the killing of President Jovenel Moïse is a Haitian in his 60s living in Florida who identifies himself as a doctor and has accused the leaders of his homeland of corruption.
Police identified the man on Sunday night as Christian Emmanuel Sanon and said Moïse’s alleged killers were protecting the suspect as the supposed president of Haiti.
The head of Haiti’s police, Léon Charles, accused Sanon of working with those who plotted and participated in Moïse’s killing, which stunned the nation of more than 11 million people. He gave no information on the purported masterminds.
Charles said that among the items found by officers at Sanon’s house in Haiti were a hat emblazoned with the logo of the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration, 20 boxes of bullets, gun parts, four automobile license plates from the Dominican Republic, two cars, and correspondence with unidentified people.
"We continue to make strides," Charles said of police efforts to solve the brazen attack early Wednesday at Moïse’s private home that killed the president and seriously wounded his wife, Martine Moïse, who is hospitalized in Miami.
Charles said Sanon was in contact with a firm that provides security for politicians and recruited the suspects in the killing. He said Sanon flew into Haiti on a private jet accompanied by several of the alleged gunmen.
The gunmen’s initial mission was to protect Sanon, but they later received a new order: arrest the president, Charles said.
"The operation started from there," he said, adding that an additional 22 suspects joined the group and that contact was made with Haitian citizens.
A total of 26 Colombians are suspected of the killing of the president. Eighteen of them have been arrested, along with three Haitians. Charles said five of the suspects are still at large and at least three have been killed.
"They are dangerous individuals," Charles said. "I’m talking commando, specialized commando."
Charles said that after Moïse was killed, one of the suspects phoned Sanon, who then got in touch with two people believed to be the intellectual authors of the plot. He did not identify the masterminds or say if police knew who they are.
The chief said Haitian authorities obtained the information from interrogations and other parts of the investigation. He added that police are working with high-ranking Colombian officials to identify details of the alleged plot, including when the suspects left Colombia and who paid for their tickets.
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Sanon has lived in Florida, in Broward County, and in Hillsborough County on the Gulf Coast. Records show he has also lived in Kansas City, Missouri. He filed for bankruptcy in 2013 and identifies himself as a doctor in a video on YouTube titled "Leadership for Haiti."
In the video, he denounces the leaders of Haiti as corrupt, accusing them of stripping the country of its resources, saying that "they don’t care about the country, they don’t care about the people."
He claims Haiti has uranium, oil, and other resources that have been taken by government officials.
"This is a country with resources," he said. "Nine million people can’t be in poverty when we have so much resources in the country. It’s impossible. ... The world has to stop doing what they are doing right now. We can’t take it anymore. We need new leadership that will change the way of life."
Sanon has posted little on Twitter but has expressed an interest in Haitian politics. In September 2010, he tweeted, "Just completed a successful conference in Port-Au-Prince. Many people from the opposition attended." A month later, he wrote: "Back to Haiti for an important meeting regarding the election. Pray for me for protection and wisdom."
Sanon’s arrest comes as a growing number of politicians challenge interim Prime Minister Claude Joseph, who is currently in charge of Haiti with help from police and the military.
Joseph said Moïse’s wife underwent surgery Saturday but is doing well, adding that the investigation into the killing remains a priority for the government.
"I congratulate the population for staying calm," he said Sunday night. "The plan was probably to kill the president and for the population to take to the streets and start looting."
While the streets were calm Sunday, government officials worry about what lies ahead and have requested U.S. and U.N. military assistance.
"We still believe there is a path for chaos to happen," Haiti Elections Minister Mathias Pierre told The Associated Press.
Pentagon chief spokesman John Kirby said on Fox News Sunday that the Pentagon is analyzing the request to send troops to Haiti and that no decisions have been made. He said a team, largely comprising agents from the Department of Homeland Security and the FBI, were heading to Haiti to help with the investigation of the assassination.
’’I think that’s really where are our energies are best applied right now, in helping them get their arms around investigating this incident and figuring out who’s culpable, who’s responsible and how best to hold them accountable going forward," Kirby said.
The United Nations has been involved in Haiti on and off since 1990, but the last U.N. military peacekeepers left the country in 2017.
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The Associated Press contributed to this report.