Feds reveal motive behind Washington power grid attacks on Christmas Day
TACOMA, Wash. (KPTV) – Federal law enforcement authorities have revealed the alleged motives behind attacks on four power substations in Washington state on Christmas Day that left thousands without power.
The four substations that were targeted were the Graham and Elk Plain substations operated by Tacoma Power and the Kapowsin and Hemlock substations operated by Puget Sound Energy. Damage to the Tacoma Power substations alone was estimated to be at least $3 million.
On Tuesday, the FBI identified 32-year-old Matthew Greenwood and 40-year-old Jeremy Crahan as the perpetrators of the attacks after analyzing their phone records.
A Tacoma Power substation captured images of one of the suspects and a pickup truck that was connected to the two men. When law enforcement arrested Greenwood and Crahan, they found the same clothing caught on camera and seized two unregistered guns, one with a makeshift silencer.
The two men were charged with conspiracy to damage energy facilities and possession of an unregistered firearm. According to the US Attorney’s Office, conspiracy to attack energy facilities is punishable by up to 20 years in prison and possession of an unregistered firearm is punishable by up to ten years in prison.
Prosecutors will request that both men remain detained at the Federal Detention Center in SeaTac.
According to the criminal complaint, the motive for the Dec. 25 attacks, which occurred within a 12-hour period and hundreds of miles apart, was to rob a nearby business while power was out for about 15,000 customers in the area.
The outer chain-link fence around the Hemlock substation, which is operated by Puget Sound Energy, was cut early on Christmas Day. A “bank high-side switch” was messed up, leading to an outage that affected about 8,000 users.
On December 26, 2022, Tacoma Power provided the FBI with surveillance footage of a suspect seen at the Elk Plain substation at the time of the attack. Federal agents and local law enforcement later executed search warrants on Dec. 31 and found a short-barreled rifle with what appeared to be a homemade silencer inside a trailer. (Department of Justice)
The next target was the substation at Elk Plain. To enter the substation, the padlocks on the pedestrian gates had to be removed. Once inside, the high side switches were changed, which resulted in an outage. The Graham substation was the scene of the third attack, which involved tampering with high side breakers and cutting a chain link fence.
According to police, one of the power substations in Graham, Washington, was targeted on Christmas Day. (Google Maps)
7,500 customers experienced power outages as a result of $3 million in damage to these two Tacoma Power substations. According to the lawsuit, it will take up to 36 months to replace both “de-energizer taps” for each damaged transformer that is damaged.
PSE provided the FBI with a map showing the vicinity of all four substations attacked on December 25, 2022. (Department of Justice)
The fourth attack occurred at the Kapowsin substation operated by Puget Sound Energy later that evening, on December 25. To gain access, a chain link fence was cut. The substation began arcing and lighting up after the suspects allegedly tampered with the bank’s high-side switch and attempted to open the connection.
Greenwood admitted, after being advised of his Miranda rights, that he and Crahan “prepared to disrupt power in order to commit a burglary,” according to a probable cause summary by FBI Special Agent Mark Tucher.
Crahan is accused of breaking into the fourth substation. After the Graham and South Hill attacks, the two went to a nearby business where Crahan punched a lock and Greenwood entered to steal from the cash register, according to Tucher. This was done when the power was off. That company is not named in the complaint.
According to the FBI, the arrest of the suspects was made possible by cellphone data identifying them at each of the four substations and security video showing one of the suspects and the getaway vehicle. According to the complaint, during the inspection of the trailer where the two people lived, a hand-made short-barreled gun with silencer was discovered.
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