Federal authorities are investigating electric outages in a North Carolina county that officials believe were caused by “targeted” shootings, leaving tens of thousands of people without power amid cold weather.
North Carolina Gov. Roy Cooper (D) spoke about the outages Monday at a press conference in Moore County, where investigators said gunmen attacked two power substations just days earlier. The county, about 50 miles northwest of Fayetteville, has been under a state of emergency that includes a curfew and closed schools.
The outages are being investigated as a criminal act after utility crews responding to the Saturday incident arrived at the two substations, which had multiple rounds fired at them, according to Moore County Sheriff Ronnie Fields. The sheriff said on Sunday that authorities have not yet determined a motivation, but that the damage appeared intentional and targeted.
“I think investigators are leaving no stone unturned as to what this is. They are looking at every motivation that could possibly occur here, and they want to find the perpetrator,” Cooper said Monday. “Regardless of motive, violence and sabotage will not be tolerated.”
Cooper said he met with local, state and federal law enforcement on Monday, as well as with Duke Energy officials in the county. He also said he visited one of the substations that were damaged in the shooting.
The FBI and the Department of Homeland Security have joined the investigation into the incident, according to Eddie Buffaloe, the state’s secretary of public safety. Buffaloe asked anyone with information to contact the county sheriff’s department.
National Security Council spokesperson John Kirby said the White House is closely monitoring what he called the “intentional vandalism” at the substations, according to WTVD-TV. Kirby also said it is a major priority of the administration to shore up infrastructure against external threats.
Duke Energy spokesperson Jeff Brooks said that about 45,000 customers ― accounting for almost the entire Duke Energy customer base in Moore County ― were affected by the outages. The company said it restored service to about 7,000 customers on Sunday night, but Brooks emphasized that the outages could last until Thursday for most customers.
The county’s residents have been facing nearly freezing temperatures at night. Duke Energy committed $100,000 to groups like the Red Cross in an effort to assist the community until the power is restored, according to Brooks. Authorities have also opened a shelter running on a generator.