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FBI joins investigation into North Carolina countywide blackout as motive for shootings at electrical substations unclear


The FBI has joined the investigation into power outages in a North Carolina county of some 100,000 people as the motive for the shots that damaged two substations remains unknown and no arrests have been made. been carried out.

A curfew would go into effect from 9 p.m. Sunday until 5 a.m. Monday, Moore County Sheriff Ronnie Fields announced at a news conference. Power remained out for around 35,400 customers on Monday morning, down several thousand from the peak in outages over the weekend.

Just after 7 p.m. Saturday, power outages began in the Carthage area before spreading to the vast majority of central and southern Moore County. Electrical crews and MPs responding to the scene found ‘extensive damage’ to two substations which were being investigated as a ‘criminal incident’ and ‘intentional vandalism’.

Fields said Sunday that an individual or group of people walked through the doors of the substations and fired multiple shots. Some 40,000 customers were initially without power.

NORTH CAROLINA SHERIFF SAYS ‘INTENTIONAL VANDALISM’ AT SUBSTATIONS CAUSED OUTAGES FOR 40,000 CUSTOMERS

This photo shows the gate of the Duke Energy West End substation in Moore County, North Carolina on Sunday, Dec. 4, 2022.
(John Nagy/The Pilot via AP)

Fields said he had no information on the veracity of the rumors that the outages were somehow related to a protest at a drag show. “No, none that I know of. Is it possible? Yes, anything is possible. But we couldn’t connect anything to the drag show,” Fields told reporters on Sunday.

The sheriff also said he did not yet have any information on the potential motive. “No motivation. No group stepped in to acknowledge or accept that they were the ones who did it,” Fields said.

“We faced something last night in Moore County that we’ve never faced before,” Fields said. “I can promise you the writers out there, we’ll find you.”

“Evidence at the scene indicated that a firearm was used to disable the equipment,” Fields said. “We are constantly working with the FBI, the State Bureau of Investigation (SBI), all of our other state and local law enforcement officials are here, and we are working around the clock and will continue to do so.”

“My friends, these are tough times. A tough time that I never thought in my 40 years in law enforcement, we would see things and deal with things that we would face.”

Jeff Brooks of Duke Energy said Sunday he expected the outages to last through Thursday.

“During our investigation of the outage, we determined that there was an intentional impact on the substation, damaging multiple substation equipment and causing a power outage,” Brooks said. “Unlike, perhaps, a storm, where you could come in and redirect the power somewhere else, that wasn’t an option in this case, so the repair has to be completed. In many cases, some of that equipment will have to be replaced, and our teams are currently working on the repair plan.”

This photo shared Nov. 18 on the Moore County Sheriff's Office Facebook page shows a marked service vehicle

This photo shared Nov. 18 on the Moore County Sheriff’s Office Facebook page shows a marked service vehicle
(Moore County Sheriff’s Office)

The state of emergency went into effect at 4 p.m. Sunday, Moore County Public Safety Director Bryan Phillips said.

A shelter has been opened at the Moore County Sports Complex in Carthage. EMS, fire and 911 operations are operating normally, but call volumes increased Saturday night, Phillips said.

“Reach out to your neighbors. To people you know who may be in need and come to the aid of them in any way you can,” Moore County Chairman Frank Quis said Sunday at the press conference. . “We in county government can reach out, but we’re not reaching out to everyone, so it’s up to our citizens to step up and be our solution here.”

Schools were closed across the county on Monday for students and staff, Moore County Schools Superintendent Tim Locklear said, saying the district would monitor the situation throughout the week.

“Friends, it was [a] terrible act. And it appears to be an intentional, willful and malicious act,” said Senator Tom McInnis. “The perpetrator will be brought to justice and prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law.”

Moore County Sheriff Ronnie Fields reports the massive countywide power outage is being investigated as a criminal event.

Moore County Sheriff Ronnie Fields reports the massive countywide power outage is being investigated as a criminal event.
(Moore County Sheriff’s Office)

“I challenge our community members if you don’t have to go out for any reason, please stay home tonight,” McInnis added. “We may have to of course tomorrow night and into the night after. But tonight, for sure, stay home. The roads are dangerous.”

When asked if this rose to the level of domestic terrorism, Fields said: “I can’t answer that, again we’re looking at all avenues. That’s why I have the professionals , the federal people, they deal with the inside terrorism more than the locals. So they’re on board, and they’re working with us to figure out exactly who did this. Now I can say this. This individual who did that, it was purposeful. It wasn’t random.”

Moore County is about an hour’s drive southwest of the state capital, Raleigh, and is known for its golf courses in Pinehurst and other communities.

This file of images shows Progress Energy Inc. power lines from a substation in Durham, North Carolina, U.S., on Sunday, Jan. 9, 2011. Duke Energy Corp.  was about to strike a deal to buy Progress Energy Inc. to form America's largest utility.  .

This file of images shows Progress Energy Inc. power lines from a substation in Durham, North Carolina, U.S., on Sunday, Jan. 9, 2011. Duke Energy Corp. was about to strike a deal to buy Progress Energy Inc. to form America’s largest utility. .
(Photographer: Jim R. Bounds/Bloomberg via Getty Images)

Fields said he has been in contact with North Carolina Governor Roy Cooper and U.S. Representatives Dan Bishop and Rich Hudson, all of whom have offered any assistance.

“Last night, unknown individuals vandalized at least two substations in Moore County with criminal intent,” Hudson said in a statement. “The motive for this crime remains unknown. Many Moore County residents remain without power. I want to thank Sheriff Ronnie Fields and all local law enforcement as well as the SBI and FBI for their quick action to respond. to the incident. I have also been in contact with Duke Energy and know that they are working on all options to restore power as quickly as possible.”

“I appreciate the quick response from local and state emergency responders in Moore County to protect public safety and work with Duke Energy to restore power,” Cooper tweeted. “An attack like this on critical infrastructure is a serious and intentional crime and I expect state and federal authorities to fully investigate and bring those responsible to justice.”

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Fields also spoke about an incident at a Moore County Walmart that happened during the outages. The sheriff said while the store was waiting for the generators to arrive, someone slipped in and attempted to shoplift. This individual was taken into custody. Several law enforcement agencies have also provided security assistance at electrical substations while major repairs are underway.

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