Idaho man faces federal charges, up to 20 years in prison for shooting at dams

A Meridian man who was arrested in June after reportedly shooting at electrical substation equipment at two Idaho dams now faces federal charges over the incidents, the U.S. Attorney’s Office announced Tuesday.

Randy Vail, 58, was arrested near Cambridge early on a June morning following reports of an individual on a white motorcycle firing a rifle at power substations at Hell’s Canyon and Brownlee dams.

Washington County sheriff’s deputies attempted to stop Vail, who fit the suspect description. Police said Vail then led the deputies on a high-speed chase on his motorcycle before eventually pulling over.

When deputies made contact with Vail, they found “two tire repair cans that are used to hold compressed air” that smelled of gasoline, court documents said. According to the documents, Vail told the deputies they were gas canisters for the motorcycle.

Vail was arrested and charged in Washington County with attempting to flee law enforcement and possession of a bomb or destructive device because of the gas-filled repair cans. He was also charged with malicious injury to property in Adams County, where the dams are located.

He now faces two additional charges of destruction of an energy facility, which is a federal crime. He could face up to 20 years in prison if convicted.

According to the U.S. Attorney’s Office news release, Vail’s alleged attack “resulted in significant interruption and impairment of a function of the facilities,” which provide and store power for Idaho, Washington and Oregon. Idaho Power owns the dams.

During his arrest and a pretrial conference in June, officials said Vail refused to respond to a judge’s questions and said he didn’t understand his Miranda rights. Third District Judge David Eames ordered an evaluation to determine whether Vail was fit to proceed in court.

In the past several months, substations in North Carolina, Washington and Oregon have been damaged in various attacks. In February, the Department of Homeland Security warned in a bulletin that “domestic violent extremists” have looked at attacking electrical and communications infrastructure “as a means to create chaos and advance ideological goals.” The motivation behind Vail’s alleged attack is unclear.