The FBI has joined the investigation into a gun attack at two North Carolina electric substations that left nearly 40,000 homes without power amid freezing temperatures over the weekend.
The federal bureau will work with state and local law enforcement to probe whether people protesting a drag show in Moore County intentionally set off power to every home and business throughout the county, the Raleigh News & Observer reports.
Authorities have said that the substations serving the entire county were ‘intentionally’ shot at Saturday night, destroying some critical equipment while a drag show was underway — though Moore County officials have not yet determined a motive for the vandalism.
Some 45,000 customers lost power within the first few hours, but electricity has now been restored to some 11,000 customers with 36,000 still reporting they do not have gas or heat as temperatures dipped below freezing Monday morning, according to PowerOutage.us, a website that monitors outages across the U.S.
Still, officials say the widespread outages may last through Thursday, after already causing several car crashes, multiple reports of break-ins and calls from residents concerned about their vital medical equipment shutting off.
Widespread blackouts in Moore County, North Carolina continued for a second consecutive day on Monday amid freezing temperatures. A security patrol guard is pictured here near the entrance to a local Walmart running on generator power amid reports of break-ins
Duke Energy employees found that some critical equipment at two substations were intentionally damaged on Saturday night, shutting off power for the entire county
Gerardo Anicero is pictured warming himself in front of a makeshift fire as he watches Duke Energy personnel work to restore power at a crippled electrical substation as temperatures dip below freezing
Authorities have restored power to some 11,000 residents, with 36,000 still reporting they do not have gas or heat Monday morning
At a news conference on Sunday, Duke Energy spokesman Jeff Brooks revealed that the first substation went offline between 7pm and 8pm Saturday night, with the second substation shutting off soon after.
It came as a drag show was underway at the Sunrise Theater in Southern Pines, that had drawn the attention of several protestors who demonstrated outside.
One local, Emily Grace Rainey, who is a former Army Captain, had posted an invitation to the drag show protest on her Facebook page — later revealing: ‘The power is out in Moore County, and I know why.’
She has since insisted that she meant God intervened to shut off power during the show, writing on Facebook that deputies with the Moore County Sheriff’s Office ‘wasted their time’ when they visited her home within hours of her post.
‘I welcomed them to my home,’ she wrote. ‘Sorry they wasted their time.
‘I told them God works in mysterious ways and is responsible for the outage,’ Rainey, 32, continued. ‘I used the opportunity to tell them about the immoral drag show and the blasphemies screamed by its supporters.
‘I told them God is chastising Moore County, thanked them for coming and wished them a good night,’ she concluded, adding that she is ‘thankful for the LEOs service as always.’
Sheriff Ronnie Fields later revealed at the news conference on Sunday that the information Rainey posted online was ‘false.’
Without using her name, he said officers ‘had to go and interview this young lady and have a word of prayer with her, but it turned out to be nothing.’
The outage came as a drag show was underway at the Sunrise Theater in Southern Pines
Emily Grace Rainey, 32, raised questions about protestors’ involvement in the shooting at the substations
She posted shortly after the power went out that she ‘knows why’ there were outages, later insisting she meant God intervened to shut the power off
Deputies with the Moore County Sheriff’s Office visited her home within hours of the posting saying they ‘wasted their time’
Rainey served in the Army as a psychological operations officer until 2021 when she left months after leading a group of people from North Carolina to the January 6 rally in Washington that led up to the deadly riot at the U.S. Capitol by supporters of then-President Donald Trump.
She admitted to leading the 100 members of Moore County Citizens for Freedom, which describes itself online as a nonpartisan network promoting conservative values, to the Washington rally to ‘stand against election fraud’ and support Trump.
Commanders at Fort Bragg initially said that she acted within military regulations and that no one in her group broke the law.
But she had earlier made a name for herself within the county for her opposition to mask mandates in the early days of the coronavirus pandemic after she posted a video online of her pulling down caution tape at a playground that was closed under the state’s COVID restrictions.
Police charged her with injury to personal property, revealing to WRAL-TV that they let her off with warnings twice before for tearing down the tape closing off the playground.
The Army gave Rainey ‘appropriate administrative action’ for the incident and she submitted her resignation in September 2020.
Rainey served in the Army as a psychological operations officer until 2021 when she left months after leading a group of people from North Carolina to the January 6 rally in Washington
She had earlier made a name for herself within the county when she took it upon herself to tear down tape at a playground during the pandemic
Prior to the drag show, Rainey called for a protest outside the theater
Authorities say crews who responded to the scene of the electrical substations on Saturday found ‘intentional impact on the substation, damaging multiple pieces of equipment.’
The utility workers found gates were broken and evidence of gunfire damage to equipment.
State and local law enforcement were then called in to provide security at the substations overnight, as Sheriff Ronnie Fields suggested someone pulled up and ‘opened fire on the substation, the same thing with the other one.’
‘No group has stepped up to acknowledge or accept that they’re the ones who’ve done it,’ Fields said, adding ‘we’re looking at all avenues.’
Gov. Roy Cooper also said on Twitter he has spoken with Duke and state law enforcement officials about the outages, writing: ‘They are investigating and working to return electricity to those impacted. The state is providing support as needed.
‘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,’ he added.
But, Brooks said, multiple pieces of equipment were damaged and will have to be replaced — which they may not be able to do until Thursday.
‘We are looking at a pretty sophisticated repair with some fairly large equipment and so we do want citizens of the town to be prepared that this will be a multiday restoration for most customers, extending potentially as long as Thursday,’ he warned.
In the meantime, he said, Duke Energy is looking at ways to partially restore some customers through temporary technologies.
Crews who responded to the scene of the electrical substations on Saturday found ‘intentional impact on the substation, damaging multiple pieces of equipment,’ officials say
A hole that a Duke Energy worker said was caused by gunfire that crippled an electrical substation is seen in a radiator attached to a transformer
The utility workers found gates were broken and evidence of gunfire damage to equipment
Authorities say they are working to restore power to all Moore County residents and business owners, but the outages may last through Thursday
Multiple pieces of equipment were damaged in the shootings and will have to be replaced
But the outages have already caused several accidents across the county, as the Moore Regional Hospital is operating under generator power.
A spokeswoman for the hospital told the News & Observer that the outage did not affect any of their patients, and noted that the hospital has enough fuel to last for several days, with plans in place to obtain more fuel as needed.
At least four people have already been sent to the hospital for blackout-related injuries, following a four-car wreck at an intersection in Southern Pines.
‘The car wreck was totally because the lights were out,’ said Mike Cameron, the assistant town manager and fire chief.
He added that the North Carolina Department of Transportation has since been putting up temporary stop signs to help control traffic.
Firefighters were also busy responding to residents concerned about how the outage would affect vital medical equipment, while police responded to triggered alarms and reports of break-ins.
Fire, police, water and sewer services are now all operating on generator power.
A curfew is now in place for the county from 9pm to 5am, as the local school district remains closed.
At a news conference on Sunday, Sheriff Ronnie Fields said whoever is responsible for the outages will face the full extent of the law
Meanwhile, Moore County residents have taken to social media to lament their situation as the blackouts continue for a second consecutive day.
One resident told how he spent his Sunday helping friends and family ‘survive the collapse of the electric grid caused by the terrorist attack.
‘After dark, we set up an outpost because there were folks casing out businesses and property,’ he wrote, noting that he only slept for five hours before returning to the area at 5.30am.
‘We also bought a second load of thousands of dollars in generators, fuel, flashlights, cold weather gear, etc.’ he revealed. ‘Getting delivered under armed guard as we speak.’
Another resident, Danny Hayes, also posted on Facebook that he wants whoever is responsible for the blackouts to get the death penalty.
‘I hope when you’re caught for your destructive terrorist actions of the power stations that the justice system gives you the DEATH PENALTY!!!!!’ he wrote.
Hayes explained in the post that he lost his restaurant under COVID restrictions only to get it back and be ripped off by a contractor for $35,000.
He said he then went through ‘complete hell’ to buy, renovate, rebrand and build his new business ‘to a complete lack of help and support from almost everyone I ever thought would be on my team (WRONG)!!’
Hayes said he does not mind fighting those battles to build what I know God has blessed me with to share, but this kinda of battle is one that makes me wanna say &&@9 It!!!’
‘I’m sure God Will renew and restore my feelings and faith, but just like the rest of my fellow neighbors and business owners, I’m mad as Hell.’
One man on Twitter shared how he spent his Sunday helping friends and family ‘survive the collapse of the electric grid caused by the terrorist attack’
Danny Hayes, a local restaurant owner, also posted on Facebook that he hopes whoever is responsible for shooting up the substations face the death penalty
Sheriff Fields has now said that whoever is responsible for the attacks at the substation will face the full extent of the law.
He said at the news conference Sunday that considering the state and federal involvement in the case — and the ‘millions of dollars’ of damage done to the substations — charges will have ‘more teeth, more bite’ and will be ‘extensive.’