Two individuals have been arrested as prosecutors say they were plotting attacks on power stations across Baltimore, with an intent to “completely destroy [the] whole city.”
This comes as the nation has weathered a wave of similar attacks on power grids over the course of the past year.
The two arrested, Brandon Russell and Sarah Clendaniel, were, according to FBI Baltimore agent Thomas J. Sobocinski, “Not just talking, but taking steps” to further a conspiracy to shoot out transformers at multiple substations, stripping the entire city of power.
He says that Russell was providing “instructions and location information” to conspirators to carry out the attack.
The two conspirators met while in prison previously.
While Clendaniel was incarcerated for robbing convenience stores, Russell was already facing charges stemming from his extremism, to wit, for possessing bomb-making materials, after a report that he had been hanging out in neo-Nazi internet forums and discussing his plans to bomb infrastructure.
Now the two are charged with conspiracy to destroy an energy facility, and could face a sentence as long as 20 years, if convicted. From NBC:
“The accused were not just talking, but taking steps to fulfill their threats and further their extremist goals. Russell provided instructions and location information. He described attacking the power transformers as the greatest thing somebody can do,” Sobocinski said.
Court records show that, as the two sought to communicate their plans to confederates, some of their contacts were actually undercover agents.
Clendaniel told her contact that they would attack “a ring” of five substations around Baltimore with gunfire, and by hitting them in the same day, she said, “completely destroy this whole city.”
Russell has a history with extremism, as a founder of Atomwaffen, a group the Southern Poverty Law Center describes as “a series of terror cells that work toward civilizational collapse.”
He is quoted as advocating “bulldozing bodies into mass graves” as the “obvious solution” to the world’s problems, and upon announcing the creation of Atomwaffen, described it as a ” very fanatical, ideological band of comrades who do both activism and militant training,” and “spread awareness in the real world through unconventional means.”
At this time, the FBI has not made any direct connections between this and a series of similar attacks around the country.
However, it has been almost a year since a previous arrest resulted in guilty pleas from three men plotting to network with like-minded groups across the U.S. to carry out attacks on substations.