Posted 10/8/2013 08:03 am
Updated 5 months ago
LITTLE ROCK — Federal investigators asked the public for help Monday as they try to find the people responsible for three recent attacks on the state's power grid, including an attempt in August to bring down a tower holding high-voltage electric lines.
Two power poles were felled Sunday, knocking out electricity for several thousand customers of First Electric Cooperatives near Cabot. On Sept. 29, a deliberately set fire destroyed a control room at an Entergy Arkansas substation near Keo and on Aug. 21 someone attempted to lasso a train with a cable attached to a high-voltage tower in a bottomland south of Cabot.
Supervising Special Agent Kimberly Brunell of the Little Rock FBI office said the downed line could have killed members of the public.
"We are asking the public to be our eyes and to be our ears," she said.
Brunell said there may be more than one person behind the vandalism and that the incidents may be linked.
She said at least one of the people behind the damage can drive a tractor.
A tractor with a large circular saw attached to an extendable arm was stolen and driven more than a mile to the site where the power poles were cut.
"We take threats to our power grid very seriously," Brunell said.
All three incidents occurred in western Lonoke County.
At the Keo site, someone scratched into a metal box, "YOU SHOULD HAVE EXPECTED U.S."
"We need anyone who saw anything in that area. Any unusual activity around the power grid or power polls. Anyone looking like they're casing the place," Brunell said. "If you see anything on social media, we want to hear about it."
Brunell noted there is a reward of up to $25,000 on the table and said no detail is too small to possibly be of help to investigators.
The FBI had said in August that someone removed bolts securing a high-voltage tower then strung a cable between the tower and a nearby railroad line in an effort to snag a train and have it pull the tower down.
Brunell would not offer any profile of a suspect — terrorist, vandal or disgruntled former utility worker — nor say whether agents knew whether an accelerant may have been used in the Keo fire. After the high-voltage line incident, the FBI said it believed the person involved had skills in the electrical industry.
The utilities said they were working with investigators.
Tonya Everhart, First Electric's vice president of marketing and communications, said her company's workers were aware of the Entergy Arkansas incidents before its lines were taken down Sunday. She described the location as not readily accessible because of its remoteness.
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