LITTLE ROCK, Ark. (KTHV) - Three separate attacks on the Arkansas power grid over the last six weeks have the F.B.I. and the A.T.F. asking for help in finding the culprits. Investigators won't go as far as to say all three attacks are definitely related but say they are looking into that possibility.
"We believe that anyone that intentionally brings down power lines could potentially put themselves at risk and certainly the public at risk," said F.B.I. Supervisory Special Agent Kimberly Brunell. "Though we remain confident that we will identify the person or persons responsible for these incidents we are enlisting the public's help to be our eyes and to be our ears. We take threats to our power grid very seriously."
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On the morning of October 6th, according to investigators, someone stole a Kershaw tractor with an extendable arm and a circular saw blade, drove it through a locked cattle gate and took it more than a mile into the woods off Phillips Road in Jacksonville. They then used the saw to cut down two power poles, knocking out electricity to about 10,000 customers including Darrell Burns.
"As soon as I got up, I noticed the fans weren't on and it was kind of unusual for a day like yesterday to lose power. There weren't any storms of anything," said Burns. "There is a gentleman just down the street here who is in a wheelchair and he has to have all of his equipment running and they don't have a backup generator yet so you figure, if the power goes out, he's stuck."
A week earlier someone set fire to an Entergy substation between Scott and England, leaving behind an inscribed message that read "you should have expected U.S." Before that, on August 21st, someone climbed a 100-foot transmission tower in Cabot and sabotaged a set of high-voltage power lines.
"You talk about sixty, seventy-thousand volts of electricity or more going through those power lines and someone messing with them? That's like instant death," said Burns.
"We feel certain that the public will play a vital role in helping us bring those responsible for these incidents to justice," added Brunell. "Regardless of how insignificant you think your information may be, or whether you think we may already be aware of it, we strong encourage you to come forward as we want to hear your information."
Investigators are offering up to $25,000 for information leading to the arrest of the vandals, asking anyone who has any information to contact the F.B.I. at 501-221-9100 or Little.Rock@ic.fbi.gov. They also ask anyone who sees suspicious activity near power lines, substations or equipment to call 9-1-1 and report it.