BALTIMORE, M.d. (WGHP) — FBI agents have said they do not believe that the attack on Duke Energy substations in Moore County are connected to thwarted attacks in Baltimore, Maryland but the criminal complaint does offer a connection.
Brandon Russell, of Florida, and Sarah Clendaniel, of Maryland, were taken into custody by the FBI for planning to attack five substations in Maryland, mostly around Baltimore, in the hopes of “completely destroying” the city and leaving people without power during a time of year when energy usage is high.
Russell is the co-founder of Atomwaffen Division, a neo-Nazi group, though the group renamed itself “National Socialist Order” after Russell and his roommate were arrested. Russell was convicted for unlawfully possessing explosives in 2018.
His roommate, who was charged in the murders of two other people they lived with, told investigators that Russell and his roommates had been planning to attack infrastructure, including power infrastructure and a nuclear plant in Florida.
The criminal complaint that led to the arrest of Russell and Clendaniel in February states that they both talked with a “Confidential Human Source” using encrypted chat applications under the aliases of “Homunculus” and “Nythra.”
The source said they had been talking with Russell and Clendaniel since at least June 2022. They discussed tactics, such as waiting until the weather was severe in order to maximize strain. Russell is quoted as telling the source “putting holes in transformers though is the greatest thing somebody can do.”
On January 31, the informant had a conversation with Russell in which they talked about the specific locations chosen in Maryland to attack. They were all mostly close to Baltimore, except one near the Pennsylvania border, which the informant questioned.
Russell provided a video captioned “Gunfire vs. Grid” and titled “What Really Happened With the Substation Attack in North Carolina,” a video in which a YouTuber is discussing the attacks on Moore County substations from an engineering point of view, explaining the damage and how the electrical substations are linked together. According to the documents, Russell told the informant that this video would help him understand their choice of substations to hit in Maryland.
Clendaniel and Russell’s arrests were announced Monday. FBI agents said they don’t believe their plans were connected to any other plans. FBI agents have also said they don’t have any indication that the attack in Moore County is connected to the shooting of a Randolph County substation in January.
Russell and Clendaniel are among several with confirmed or alleged neo-Nazi connections who have been charged with planning to attack substations or other electrical infrastructure in the past three years.
There are $25,000 rewards for information on the Moore County and Randolph County shootings. The FBI is also investigating the vandalism of electrical equipment in Jones County in November.