The Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) has joined the investigation into the weekend destruction of electrical substations in North Carolina that has resulted in power outages for about 40,000 customers.
The alleged sabotage of the substations has been billed as “intentional” and “targeted” by investigators thus far, although there is not an obvious motive as of yet.
Noting that bullets were fired into the substations, Moore County Sheriff Ronnie Fields said at a press conference that “the person, or persons, who did this knew exactly what they were doing.”
“We don’t have a clue why Moore County,” he continued.
Fields also commented that “no group has stepped up to acknowledge or accept they’re the ones who [did] it,” leading speculation away from the attack as being an act of domestic terrorism.
North Carolina Governor Roy Cooper spoke to CNN about the incident and expressed concern for the vulnerability of the state’s electrical grid.
“We need to look forward, to look at how we can harden our electrical grid and make sure that our power sources are protected,” Cooper commented. “[Our grid] can’t be this vulnerable that someone with knowledge of how to disable the electrical system could come in and actually do that in a very short amount of time.”
With extreme cold affecting the area, the lack of electricity has caused significant concern for residents.
“We have a 6-month-old baby in the house. We’re out of heat. We are trying to get heat for her,” Moore County resident Chris Thompson told local news media.
Officials estimate that the attack has caused millions of dollars in damage and will not be easily remedied.
“Equipment will have to be replaced,” said Duke Energy spokesman Jeff Brooks. “We’re pursuing multiple paths of restoration so that we can restore as many customers as quickly as possible. Recognizing that, we are looking at pretty sophisticated repair with some fairly large equipment.”
While investigators pursue a potential motive, some in the community have speculated that the attack was meant to interrupt a local drag show that was occurring at the time.
Lauren Mathers, who heads the organization that put on the drag show, said that while they received some “hateful comments” on social media, the organizers did not feel that they received any overt threats leading up to the event.
Fields also remarked on this rumor that he and other investigators “have not been able to tie anything back to the drag show.”
Calling the attack an “insider threat,” CNN National Security Analyst Juliette Kayyem remarked that investigators should look “at the potential that there was either casing or someone who knew the area, knew the facilities and knew exactly where to shoot.”
She continued, “These aren’t drive-by incidents. These are ones in which you’re targeting directly.”
Whoever the perpetrators are, state and federal officials are working in concert to solve the case.
“An attack like this on critical infrastructure is a serious, intentional crime and I expect state and federal authorities to thoroughly investigate and bring those responsible to justice,” pledged Gov. Cooper.