Officials Ask Residents to Review Surveillance Footage After Washington Substation Attacks

Lorenz Duchamps
By Lorenz Duchamps
December 28, 2022US News
Officials Ask Residents to Review Surveillance Footage After Washington Substation Attacks
A no trespassing sign is posted in front of a electrical substation in a file photo taken on Jan. 26, 2022. (Justin Sullivan/Getty Images)

Authorities in Washington state are asking residents and business owners in Pierce County to review surveillance footage for suspicious activity in connection to four energy substations that were vandalized on Christmas Day.

“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,” the Pierce County Sheriff’s Office said in a statement.

On Dec. 25, thousands of customers were briefly without power after a total of four substations of the power companies Tacoma Public Utilities (TPU) and Puget Sound Energy (PSE) were deliberately damaged.

Police said they initially received a report of a burglary around 5:30 a.m. at a TPU substation located in Spanaway, between Olympia and Tacoma. Officials noted that the incident caused a power outage in the area without specifying how the damage was caused.

“Deputies arrived on scene and saw there was forced entry into the fenced area,” police said. “Nothing had been taken from the substation, but the suspect vandalized the equipment causing a power outage in the area.”

Around the same time, deputies were notified of a second burglary at a TPU substation in Graham, located 16 miles southeast of Tacoma. The suspects forced their way into the facility, but they did not take anything from the site, police said.

At 11:25 a.m., police were notified by PSE that they experienced a power outage about three hours after midnight. Following an investigation, deputies found that the facility was broken into and the equipment vandalized.

“We do not have any suspects in custody,” authorities say. “It is unknown if there are any motives or if this was a coordinated attack on the power systems.”

Later on Dec. 25, at around 7 p.m., another PSE substation was vandalized after a fire was reported on-site, according to the sheriff’s office.

“The fire was extinguished and the substation secured,” officials said. “Power was knocked out for homes in Kapowsin and Graham. The suspect(s) gained access to the fenced area and vandalized the equipment which caused the fire.”

TPU said in a statement that the incident caused over 7,000 customers in Graham and Elk Plain to lose power, noting that the suspects “deliberately targeted” two of its substations with “physical damage.”

Most of the power of affected homes was restored on the day of the attack, but some areas were still without electricity on Monday, according to utility maps.

“We know this has been a long couple days for our customers without power,” the utility said, reported. “While conducting final checks, our crews discovered another issue that must be fixed before deploying a mobile substation to restore around 650 customers.”

Sgt. Darren Moss, a Pierce County Sheriff’s Department spokesperson, said the four break-ins were conducted in a similar way, but it was too early to conclude whether the incidents were all coordinated, according to the publication.

The FBI confirmed that it is aware of the incidents but would not say whether it was taking part in an investigation.

“We do take threats against our infrastructure seriously and urge anyone with information to contact law enforcement,” the FBI told CNN on Dec. 25.

Jack Phillips contributed to this report.

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