RANDOLPH COUNTY, N.C. (WGHP) — As of Feb. 3, it’s been two months since someone opened fire on two Duke Energy power substations in Moore County, leaving thousands of people in the dark for days.
It was the second, and most damaging, of three instances of vandalism or violence against North Carolina substations since November 2022, and investigators are still working to find information about these incidents.
On Friday, the FBI made a renewed call for information on the substation shootings. In the release, they stated, “at this time, investigators do not believe the shootings in Moore and Randolph counties are connected.” They are offering a $25,000 reward in both cases.
- On Nov. 11, 2022, a Carteret-Craven Electrical Cooperative substation was vandalized, causing the equipment to leak oil and leaving more than 12,000 people in the Maysville area of Jones County without power for around two hours.
- On Dec. 3, 2022, two Duke Energy substations in Moore County were hit by gunfire from high-powered rifles and damaged, leaving over 40,000 customers without power from Saturday, Dec. 2 until around Thursday, Dec. 7.
- On Jan. 17, 2023, an EnergyUnited substation in Randolph County was shot into, but no customers lost power.
The FBI has confirmed that they’re investigating all three with the respective sheriff’s offices.
Where things stand
On Dec. 8, search warrants were obtained in relation to the Moore County attack, but on Jan. 19 the Moore County Sheriff’s Office said that they’re continuing to work on the investigation and that they have received tips but still have no suspects.
“We are trying to uncover any and all leads,” Moore County Sheriff Chief Deputy Richard Maness said. “We are taking every lead seriously and continue to dedicate a lot of manpower to this issue. We are very determined.”
Duke Energy said last month that they didn’t yet have a plan for how they would handle the costs associated with the damage and repairs. A similar attack in Coyote, California in 2013 cost roughly $15 million and has remained unsolved. Details of that attack are found in a document called ‘The Garden’ which has been circulated in neo-Nazi circles, including just before the Moore County shooting, according to RawStory.
The FBI is investigating the Maysville vandalism of Carteret-Craven Electrical Coop equipment alongside the Jones County Sheriff’s Office, but little detail has been released about how the equipment was vandalized, other than the vandalism caused it to leak coolant.
On Monday, EnergyUnited confirmed they had no updates to share on the Randolph County substation shooting on Jan. 17. The FBI is asking for information from citizens about both the Moore County and Randolph County incidents.
In the days after the Dec. 3 shooting, the community was on edge; Facebook posts seemed to take credit for the vandalism just after it happened, connecting it to a contested drag performance in Southern Pines, but the Moore County Sheriff’s Office said they investigated and dismissed the poster, former Army officer Emily Grace Rainey, as a suspect and have not confirmed if the drag performance was a motive.
Lawmakers are currently weighing bills that would stiffen punishment for attacks like the Moore County one, as companies find their security measures under scrutiny.
While no group has taken responsibility for the vandalism, following the Moore County attack David Schanzer, the director of the Triangle Center on Terrorism and Homeland Security at Duke University, said, “We just don’t know exactly who the perpetrators are or what their motives are. But, once we do, the label of domestic terrorism could certainly be applied here, but it just depends.”
Substation attack conspiracies
There are multiple federal cases involving men with apparent neo-Nazi ties who allegedly conspired to attack substations and power infrastructure across the US in 2020 and 2021.
In October 2020, Liam Collins, Paul Kryscuk and Jordan Duncan were charged with conspiracy to unlawfully manufacture, possess and distribute various weapons and weapon accessories. At the time of their arrest, the three men lived in Boise, Idaho. All of the charges came from the Eastern District of North Carolina. Collins and Duncan were both Marines stationed at Camp Lejeune. Collins was originally from New Jersey, while Duncan was from North Carolina.
In November 2020, Justin Wade Hermanson, a North Carolina man who was in the same Marine unit as Collins at Camp Lejeune, was charged with one count of conspiracy to manufacture firearms and ship interstate. After two superseding indictments, he pleaded guilty on March 8, 2022.
The indictment alleges that the four men researched and discussed at length a previous attack on power infrastructure by an unknown group, using assault-style rifles. The indictment alleges that between 2017 and 2020, Kryscuk manufactured guns and Collins, stationed at Camp Lejeune at the time, stole military gear and had them delivered to the other men. Duncan gathered “a library of information,” some military owned, about weapons, toxins and explosives.
In June 2021, Joseph Maurino, a New Jersey national guardsman, was also indicted, accused of supplying untraceable guns to the other men.
Hermanson and Kryscuk are scheduled to have sentencing hearings on Mar. 7, 2023.
Maurino and Duncan have arraignment hearings on Mar. 7, 2023 and Collins is scheduled to be arraigned on April 11, 2023.
In February 2022, three men, Christopher Cook, Jonathan Frost, and Jackson Sawall, pleaded guilty to a count of conspiring to provide material support to terrorists.
Court documents state that each of them was “assigned” a substation in different parts of the country, and they would attack those electrical substations or power grids with high-powered rifles. They discussed how this would cause enough unrest in the country to incite some sort of race war or financial collapse.
The three men are noted to have graffitied a bridge at an area park with a swastika and the words “Join the Front.”
Unsealed court documents show that in the first week of December, an emergency bond revocation was filed for Cook and Sawall, and a warrant was issued for them to be taken back into custody. Electronics were seized from Cook on Dec. 5.
Cook, Frost and Sawall are scheduled to be in court for their sentencing on April 21, 2023, in Columbus, Ohio.
While the attacks being investigated do not have any confirmed connections to the neo-Nazi cases currently in court, the Moore County attack is noted to share similarities to the plans the groups were making.
Nazism in North Carolina
In December, two banners containing Nazi imagery were hung over highway overpasses in Moore County. One was discovered on Dec. 18, the morning before the start of Hannukah, in Vass, about 10 miles away from the Carthage substation that had been hit. The other was found on Christmas morning in Cameron.
The Moore County Sheriff’s Office said they are investigating the banners independently from the substation and can’t say if they’re connected.
The first banner read “Bring it all down,” accompanied by a link to a Telegram channel. The wording “bring it all down” appears in the Telegram over a graphic that appears to show a power substation, posted on the channel on Nov. 13, 2022, just two days after the vandalism in Jones County.
The second one read “a touch of death” and also advertised the same Telegram. An instructional article about “banner drops” was also shared on this Telegram, using pictures of one of the Moore County banners.
Both of the banners had swastikas and “1488.” “1488” is a number used by neo-Nazis, with “14” representing the “14 words,” which is a common slogan in white supremacist circles, and “88” which is meant to represent “Heil Hitler,” as H is the eighth letter of the alphabet.
The FBI asks anyone with information about the substation shootings should call the Moore County Sheriff’s Office at (910) 947-4444, Randolph County Sheriff’s Office at (336) 318-6685, or contact the FBI at 1-800-CALL FBI or tips.fbi.gov.