Authorities seek warrants related to NC substation shooting

Workers work on equipment at the West End Substation, at 6910 NC Hwy 211 in West End, N.C., Monday, Dec. 5, 2022, where a serious attack on critical infrastructure has caused a power outage to many around Southern Pines, N.C. (AP Photo/Karl B DeBlaker) (ASSOCIATED PRESS)

CARTHAGE, N.C. (AP) — Law enforcement officials in North Carolina are applying for search warrants related to the weekend shooting of electric substations that caused widespread power outages in Moore County, authorities confirmed Thursday.

The FBI is seeking cell phone records that could indicate who was near the substations Saturday night, said an agency spokeswoman Shelley Lynch. Such search warrant applications “are a normal step in a law enforcement investigation," she added.

Richard Maness, chief deputy of the Moore County Sheriff’s Office, told The News & Observer that detectives have requested court approval for several warrants. He declined to provide specifics or say whether they've been approved.

"But obviously with any criminal investigation like this that’s an invaluable tool for law enforcement,” he told the newspaper.

The outages began after one or more people drove up to two substations, breached the gates and opened fire on them, authorities have said.

The damage cut power to 45,000 customers as well as schools and a hospital. By Wednesday, Duke Energy said on its website that all of the equipment damaged in the attack had been fixed or replaced. The company said customers gradually got power back as it finished testing and restoration.

Police have not released a motive or said what kind of gun was used in the attack. But Moore County Sheriff Ronnie Fields told reporters Monday that whoever was responsible “knew exactly what they were doing to ... cause the outage that they did.”

The state, county and Duke Energy are offering combined rewards of up to $75,000 total for information leading to an arrest and conviction in the attack.

“An attack on our critical infrastructure will not be tolerated,” North Carolina Gov. Roy Cooper said Wednesday.