Idaho man indicted for shooting at two hydroelectric dams

Aug 9, 2023, 7:07 PM

idaho shooting dams...

Brownlee Dam (Photo from Flick @Timothy Allen)

(Photo from Flick @Timothy Allen)

A federal grand jury on Tuesday indicted an Idaho man for allegedly damaging power stations that supply several northwest states, including Washington.

The indictment claims 58-year-old Randy Scott Vail of Meridian, Idaho, fired a rifle at the hydroelectric power stations at Idaho’s Hells Canyon Dam and the Brownlee Dam on June 8 and 9, causing more than $100,000 damage at each site.

More news on power stations: Power restored to Chinatown-International District residents after fire

U.S. Attorney Josh Hurwit said that power customers in three states were affected.

“He targeted areas that were very disruptive not just for Idaho, where he was, but also for our neighbors in Washington and Oregon,” Hurwit said.

The indictment does not mention how many customers lost power or for what length of time, though Hurwit’s office says the interruption was “significant.”

“These types of offenses are a real problem around the country, and we’re seeing several prosecutions like this by the Department of Justice and my colleagues around the country,” Hurwit said.

Authorities arrested Vail on June 9, following a high-speed chase near Cambridge, Idaho, about 70 miles northwest of Boise, KTVB reported. Riding on a white sport motorcycle, Vail allegedly went 80 mph in a 25-mph zone as officers pursued him.

After Vail pulled to a stop, a Washington County deputy wrote in a probable cause affidavit, officers found he had a case holding two rifles, bolt cutters, and two tire-repair cans “full of what smelled like gasoline.”

Vail is charged with two counts of destruction of an energy facility. He faces up to 20 years in prison if convicted, according to the United States Attorney’s Office for the District of Idaho..

Power grid attacks are on the rise

CBS News found that attacks on the U.S. power grid rose last year by 71% compared to 2021.

Some of the attacks have been linked to white supremacy extremists.

In January, a U.S. Department of Homeland Security report warned that domestic extremists have been developing “credible, specific plans” to attack electricity infrastructure since at least 2020. The DHS report warns that extremists “adhering to a range of ideologies will likely continue to plot and encourage physical attacks against electrical infrastructure.”

However, others also have been connected to thieves hoping to burglarize buildings while the power was out.

Contributing: The Associated Press

Follow Heather Bosch on Twitter or email her here.

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Idaho man indicted for shooting at two hydroelectric dams