2 men charged in attacks on 4 Pierce County utility substations
Two Puyallup men have been charged in attacks at four Pierce County power substations that left thousands in the dark on Christmas.
Matthew Greenwood, 32, and Jeremy Crahan, 40, are charged with conspiracy to damage energy facilities and possession of an unregistered firearm, according to U.S. Attorney for the Western District of Washington, Nick Brown.
The men were arrested on Saturday following an investigation by the FBI.
The four substations that were vandalized were the Graham and Elk Plain substations, operated by Tacoma Power, and the Kapowsin and Hemlock substations, operated by Puget Sound Energy.
Power was cut to more than 14,000 customers. All of the attacks happened in the middle of the night, according to Pierce County Sheriff’s Department spokesman Sgt. Darren Moss, Jr.
“After watching this stuff happen in other jurisdictions, everybody might think Graham, Pierce County might be the last place something like this would happen, but it did,” said Sgt. Moss.
According to court documents, the attacks on the substations were attempts to cover up a burglary at a local business, where Crahan drilled out a lock, and Greenwood stole from a cash register.
“It’s kind of concerning that people would shut out the power to thousands just to rob a store,” said Sgt. Moss.
The damage to the Tacoma Power substations alone is estimated to be at least $3 million. Repairing a single damaged transformer could take up to 36 months.
“You can’t really put a dollar amount on some of the damage on the individuals who had their power go out,” said U.S. Attorney Nick Brown. “People were waking up to frozen houses and feeling cold and not having electricity and heat in their homes at that time is very serious.”
The men were identified as possible suspects through cellphone records and surveillance video.
At one substation, Tacoma Power recorded images of one man and a pickup truck that appeared to be connected to the attack. A similar truck was found to be connected to the suspects, according to the Justice Department.
In addition, distinctive clothing seen in the surveillance photos was found during a search of the men’s home.
Agents also seized two unregistered short-barreled guns. One of the weapons was equipped with a makeshift silencer.
Both men will appear in U.S. District Court in Tacoma on Tuesday, where prosecutors will ask that the suspects remain detained at the Federal Detention Center in SeaTac pending future hearings.
Conspiracy to attack energy facilities is punishable by up to 20 years in prison. Possession of an unregistered firearm is punishable by up to ten years in prison.