The person or persons responsible for nearly countywide power outage in south-central North Carolina pulled a vehicle up to an electrical substation and opened fire on Saturday evening and then repeated the attack at a second substation, Moore County Sheriff Ronnie Fields told reporters at a press conference this afternoon.
Responding to a question from a reporter, the sheriff confirmed that the attack appears to be designed to inflict maximum impact on the county.
“The persons that done this — or the persons — knew what they were doing,” Fields said. “Absolutely.”
The sheriff discounted any possible role by Emily Grace Rainey, a former US Army psychological operations officer involved in protests against drag shows, — who posted on Facebook last night: “The power is out in Moore County, and I know why.”
In a previous Facebook post, Rainey had posted a photograph of the venue in Southern Pines hosting a “Downtown Divas” drag show, and wrote, “God will not be mocked.”
“There was an individual that put some information on Facebook that was false,” Sheriff Fields said. “Yes, we had to go interview this young lady and have a word of prayer with her.”
Rainey described the interview in a subsequent Facebook post, writing that she told investigators from the sheriff’s office “that God works in mysterious ways and is responsible for the outage.” She added: “I used the opportunity to tell them about the immoral drag show and the blasphemies screamed by its supporters. God is chastising Moore County.”
A former Army captain, Rainey was investigated by her command staff after organizing a bus trip to Donald Trump’s Jan. 6 rally at the Ellipse. In June 2021, Rainey announced on Facebook that she had resigned her commission from the Army.
After another reporter asked how the agency determined that Rainey’s post claiming knowledge of the motive for the attack was false, Sheriff Fields replied, “Good law enforcement,” and concluded the press conference.
Fields, who earlier characterized Moore County as “God’s country,” also downplayed opposition to the drag show as a possible motive for the attack.
“Is it possible? Yes, anything’s possible,” he said. “But we’ve not been able to tie anything back to the drag show.”
Fields said “every available officer” in the agency, including the criminal investigation division and patrol, are working to catch the perpetrator of the attack, while the FBI and State Bureau of Investigation are also working the investigation.
Fields said the attack caused millions of dollars of damage to Duke Energy.
“But what it’s done to the citizens, and what the citizens of Moore County, what we’re losing, they’re losing, and all of the businesses,” he added. “We’re just getting over the COVID, and now this, and what’s gonna hurt all of our restaurants and the businesses and stuff. It’s gonna hurt. The people of Moore County are strong, and we’ll get through it.”
Fields deflected a question about whether he would characterize the attack as “domestic terrorism,” saying, “I can’t answer that. We’re looking at all avenues. That’s why I’ve got the professionals, the federal folks — they deal with domestic terrorism, more so than locals. So, they’re on board and they’re working with us to determine who done this. I can say this: It was targeted; it wasn’t random.”
Jeff Brooks, a spokesperson for Duke Energy, said it could be Thursday before power is fully restored to the county.
“During our investigation of the outage, we did determine that there had been intentional impact on the substation, damaging multiple pieces of equipment in the substation and causing power to go out there,” Brooks said. “Unlike perhaps a storm, where you can go in and reroute power somewhere else, that was not an option in this case, so repair has to be completed. In many cases, some of that equipment will have to be replaced.”
The county has issued a state of emergency, imposing a curfew from 9 p.m. to 5 a.m., and the superintendent of Moore County Schools announced that school will be closed for all students and staff on Monday, with a day-by-day determination before they reopen.
While explaining that the outage will require “a pretty sophisticated repair with some fairly large equipment,” Brooks said, “We understand it is December. The nights get cold and being without power is very challenging at times.”