For a second time electric power to residents of north Lonoke County has been cutoff by a deliberate act. Agents of the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) and Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms (ATF) announced Monday that a reward of up to $25,000 is offered for information in three power grid attacks – one leaving a taunting message.
Randall C. Coleman, FBI Special Agent in Charge (SAC) in Arkansas, and Grover Crossland, ATF Resident Agent in Charge (RAC) in Arkansas, announced the reward offer in a joint press release on Monday.
The FBI, ATF, Lonoke County Sheriff’s Office, and Cabot Police Department, in coordination with Entergy Arkansas and First Electric Cooperative, are investigating these incidents. The investigation includes the possibility that the incidents are related, and that they are related to the intentional downing of a high-voltage transmission line in Cabot on Aug. 21.
According to the press release, during early-morning hours on Sept. 29 Entergy Arkansas officials reported a fire at the Keo substation on Arkansas Highway 165 between Scott and England in Lonoke County. There were no injuries and no reported power outages in the Keo incident.
Officials determined that the fire was intentionally set.
The press release noted that the person or persons responsible for the Keo incident wrote a message on a control panel at the substation - “YOU SHOULD HAVE EXPECTED U.S.”
On Oct. 6, First Electric Cooperative officials reported that two power poles near the 1400 block of Robin Road, behind the McBride Subdivision in Lonoke County, had been intentionally cut.
The damage cut power to about 10,000 customers in the Cabot area.
At approximately 7:20 a.m. Sunday, Oct. 6, First Electric Cooperative officials reported a power outage that affected about 10,000 customers in the Cabot area. It was found that two wooden power poles located near the 1400 block of Robin Road, behind the McBride Subdivision had been intentionally cut.
According to information from the FBI, those responsible took a tractor that was parked inside a fenced area at the intersection of Poston Road and John Shelton Road, near the Furlow community. The tractor was driven through a locked cattle gate.
Investigators believe the tractor was driven south on John Shelton Road, then west on either Billy Lane or Phillips Road, to County Road 466 and Phillips Road following the cleared area of the power line to the wooded area where the poles are located. The tractor was used to pull down one of the poles after the poles were cut.
The is manufactured by Kershaw; it has a glass cab and an extendable arm with a circular saw blade attached to the end to cut limbs.
Investigators ask anyone who lives, works, or otherwise traveled in this area between the hours of 6 a.m. and 7:20 a.m. on Oct. 6, who may have seen the tractor being operated, or may have other helpful information, to contact the Little Rock FBI office at 501-221-9100 or Little.Rock@ic.fbi.gov.
Lonoke County Sheriff John Staley on Monday affirmed that his office is in full cooperation with the FBI in the investigation. “[FBI] is lead on this, so any information concerning it will be released by them,” he said.
“But I will say this. I don’t understand why someone would do something like this, but it is the citizens of Lonoke County they are hurting, that’s who they are attacking. I don’t understand it. There are ill people who need power for life support and oxygen. Those are the ones getting hurt,” he said.
Investigators also released a photo of eyebolt and cable recovered near the scene of the downed Cabot transmission line. The eyebolt and cable were connected to the tower in an attempt to use a train to bring down the tower.
The press release notes that the cable shows signs of use and wear and could have been surplus or salvaged property, or even stolen. The cable is a half-inch in thickness; the attached eyebolt is 15 inches long. Anyone who recognizes the items is asked to contact investigators.
The press release notes that, “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 ears.
“We feel certain that the public will play a vital role in helping us bring those responsible for these incidents to justice. Regardless of how insignificant you think your information might be, or whether you think we already are aware of it, we strongly encourage you to come forward, as we want to hear your information.”
Anyone who may have any information that might be related to these incidents can contact the FBI Little Rock Field Office at 501-221-9100 or Little.Rock@ic.fbi.gov.