Neo-Nazi leader among 2 arrested in plot targeting Baltimore’s power grid, feds say

The FBI captured two people, one a nationally known neo-Nazi leader, before they could launch an attack on Baltimore’s power grid, officials said Monday.

The suspects, Brandon Russell and Sarah Clendaniel, were taken into custody last week, one in Maryland and the other in Florida, officials said.

Federal authorities described the alleged plot as “racially motivated.”

Russell is a founder of the Atomwaffen Division, a neo-Nazi group bent on “ushering in the collapse of civilization,” according to the Southern Poverty Law Center. The group admires Charles Manson and supports “the idea of lone wolf violence,” according to the Anti-Defamation League.

Sarah Clendaniel
Sarah Clendaniel is a suspect in an alleged plot to attack Baltimore’s power grid.NBC News

The suspects “conspired and took steps to shoot multiple electrical substations in the Baltimore area, aiming to quote, ‘completely destroy this whole city,’ ” Erek L. Barron, the U.S. Attorney for the District of Maryland, told reporters.

Thomas J. Sobocinski, special agent in charge of the FBI’s Baltimore office, said the suspects were serious in their efforts aimed at paralyzing the city of 580,000. More than 61% of Baltimore residents are Black.

“The accused were not just talking, but taking steps to fulfill their threats and further their extremist goals. Russell provided instructions and location information. He described attacking the power transformers as the greatest thing somebody can do,” Sobocinski said.

“Their actions threatened the electricity and heat of our homes, hospitals and businesses.”

Attacks on the nation’s power grid came into focus in December, following two high-profile incidents.

There were shootings at two electrical substations in central North Carolina in early December, officials said. At the peak of Duke Energy outages, more than 45,000 homes and businesses were in the dark.

That incident was followed by attacks at four electricity substations on Christmas weekend near Tacoma, Washington, as about 14,000 homes and businesses were forced to do without power, officials said.

This is a developing story. Please check back for updates.

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