Investigators seek video in sabotage of Washington power grid

No suspects are in custody.

December 28, 2022, 1:09 PM

Attempting to identify who apparently sabotaged multiple power stations in western Washington on Christmas Day causing a widespread electrical outage, investigators are asking residents who live near the targeted facilities to review their security camera footage and report any suspicious activity.

The search continued Wednesday for the perpetrator or perpetrators who damaged four power substations in Pierce County, setting fire to at least one and knocking out power to more than 14,000 utility customers, authorities said.

Two of the break-ins were at Tacoma Public Utilities substations and two others were at a Puget Sound Energy station, according to the sheriff's office in Pierce County, which encompasses Tacoma.

No arrests have been announced and a motive for the attacks remains under investigation.

The vandalism came amid a string of similar sabotage incidents across the country, including several in the Northwest, and follows a bulletin issued last month by the U.S. Department of Homeland Security warning that critical infrastructure could be among the targets of possible attacks by "lone offenders and small groups motivated by a range of ideological beliefs and/or personal grievances."

"It is unknown if there are any motives or if this was a coordinated attack on the power systems," the Pierce County Sheriff's Office said in a statement.

PHOTO: Stock photo of the Seattle skyline.
STOCK PHOTO/Getty Images

The substation attacks unfolded Sunday between 2:39 a.m. and 7:21 p.m. local time, authorities said. In all four episodes, the saboteurs broke into the fenced-off power stations and deliberately damaged equipment, according to the sheriff's office.

The damaged power stations are near the Pierce County towns of Spanaway, Graham, South Hill, Kapowsin.

"Our detectives are asking Pierce County residents and business owners to review surveillance video for suspicious activity this past weekend near power facilities in Pierce County," the sheriff's office said in a statement posted on Facebook Tuesday evening. "If you have surveillance video at your home or business, please review it and let us know if you find anything that could help our detectives identify the suspect(s) responsible."

Officials initially said three power stations were vandalized, but later said a fourth substation was damaged in a deliberately caused fire near the city of Graham, cutting power to homes in Kapowsin and Graham.

"The suspect(s) gained access to the fenced area and vandalized the equipment which caused the fire," the sheriff's office said in a statement. "All law enforcement agencies in the county have been notified of the incidents and will be monitoring power substations in their area."

Power was restored to all customers affected by the attacks by Monday night, the sheriff's office said.

Tacoma Public Utilities reported about 7,300 customers in the southeast of Tacoma were affected by the vandalism. Puget Sound Energy said nearly 7,700 of its customers lost power.

Earlier this month, two electrical substations were shot up in North Carolina, causing tens of thousands of customers to lose power and prompting local officials to declare a state of emergency. No one was arrested in the attacks.